How to Select the Appropriate Mobility Device to Suit Your Needs

selecting the right mobility device

If you want to know how to select the right mobility device for you, it is always best to discuss your options with a physical therapist or doctor. But there are a lot of circumstances and “hints” that can lead you to choosing the right mobility device.

There are numerous devices to choose from depending on your current physical condition.

Let’s take a look at the most common mobility devices from a top-down view starting with devices for those with an easier time walking down to wheelchairs for people with significant balance- and muscle-related issues.

When to Select a Cane

A cane is ideal for a user that has better balance and can shift weight from one leg to another without any weight bearing concerns. The rule of thumb is that when a person can use a walker with one hand, they’ll likely be able to move to a cane.

Canes can make mobility more fluid and allow for added balance and strength, too.

There are three main cane types:

  • Single Tip: Single tip canes are the most common option. These single tips allow for a lighter overall cane and easier movement.
  • Quad Cane: Quad canes are meant to add more overall support to the user. The benefits of quad canes are that the larger base adds to the support of the cane and can help to eliminate slips and falls. This is a common choice for stroke suffers. The major downside of a quad cane is that it’s awkward to move and position.
  • Forearm Canes: A person that has more problems with weight transfer and balance will do well with forearm canes. These are the choice when progressing from a walker to a cane and will help when both the left and right side if the user has significant strength issues.

If a person is progressing from a walker or wheel chair to a cane, they usually go from forearm to a single tip or quad cane.

When to Select a Walker

A person that needs both hands to balance or has significant weight bearing or transfer issues will need a walker. Even a person that has difficulty sitting up on the end of their bed will find that they can often use a walker. These devices can lead to enhanced mobility and further muscle gain, too.

Walkers can be found in the following:

  • Walking Frame: The standard walker is a walking frame that needs to be picked up and moved with each step. These walkers provide the best overall balance to the user.
  • Wheeled Walker: Quicker and easier to move, the wheeled walker doesn’t need to be picked up to move (great for shoulder injuries). These walkers are best when a person can walk faster and even walk over uneven terrain. A downside is that these walkers are often difficult to use on grass or carpet.
  • Rollators: The rollator has wheels on all four posts vs two stoppers as seen on the wheeled walker. This is ideal for anyone that wants to go on a longer walk and doesn’t need stoppers for added support. Baskets and even seats may be included.
  • Knee Walkers: The knee walker is ideal for temporary use. This one-legged walker is meant for people with weight bearing issues on one leg and are propelled with the good leg. For example, a person with a broken ankle or damaged knee may use a knee walker, but this is not a permanent solution in most circumstances. Go here to see our favorite knee walkers

You’ll also find walkers with seats (good for when a person gets tired) as well as stand-assist bars.

When to Choose a Wheelchair

Paralysis, severe weakness, strokes or a high risk of falling are a few of the reasons why people choose a wheelchair over other mobility devices. There is a myriad of different wheelchair types – both able to be propelled by the user and those propelled by another person.

The most common are:

  • Motorized: The motorized wheelchair propels a user through a built-in battery. This is the choice for someone with little hand and arm function, and even quadriplegics will find options to help them be mobile again.
  • Lightweight: A lightweight wheelchair may or may not be self-propelled, and these wheelchairs are often able to fold to allow for easy transport.
  • Custom: Custom built wheelchairs will be fitted to a user and are often able to come apart rather than fold up.
  • Reclining: A reclining wheelchair is lightweight and a good choice for anyone with hypotension or contractures. This allows for the redistribution of weight to allow for less sores and discomfort when used. Click here to see some of our recommendations.

And you’ll find wheelchairs for airplane usage, active wheelchairs meant for sports and speed as well as standing wheelchairs which can be used prior to learning to stand upright to help with blood pressure-related issues.

When in doubt, discuss your options with a physical or occupational therapist whom will assess your condition and provide recommendations suited to you.

Best Reclining Wheelchair in 2020 – Durable, Inexpensive and Reliable

reclining wheelchair reviews
reclining wheelchair

Just as its name suggests, a reclining wheelchair is a wheelchair with a reclining backrest. Typically light in weight, these chairs are ideal for users with orthostatic hypotension and hip extension contractures. They also allow you to redistribute pressure to avoid skin breakdown.

Aside from this, a reclining manual wheelchair can also make life a little more comfortable for people who use them as their primary means of mobility. The reclining feature moves incrementally to maximize safety and support while also preventing pressure sores.

ModelWeight CapacityWeightMore Information
Drive Medical Sentra
Drive Medical Sentra
up to 300 pounds64 pounds
buy now from Amazon
Drive Medical Silver Sport
Drive Medical Silver Sport
up to 300 pounds63 pounds
buy now from Amazon
Medline Excel

Medline Excel
up to 350 pounds~55 pounds
buy now from Amazon

The Difference between a Conventional and Recliner Wheelchair

The primary difference between a conventional and recliner wheelchair is, of course, the reclining feature.

The anatomy, or design, of the chair is a little different, too. Most reclining models have higher backs and additional calf support to make the reclining feature as supportive and safe as possible.

Many also have a tilt feature, which pivots the seat, to further prevent skin breakdown (i.e. bed sores). Tilting helps to evenly spread the weight, which prevents pressure-related sores.

In most cases, both the reclining and the tilt features are controlled using a hand brake system. This system is usually on the handles at the back of the chair to prevent the user from accidentally reclining while moving.

Who Can Benefit from a Wheelchair Recliner?

Most users can benefit from a wheelchair with a reclining back, but some will benefit more than others.

The ideal candidate for this type of wheelchair is someone who needs extra support and has issues with skin breakdown. Reclining chairs can also be a good fit for elderly users who may get drowsy when out with friends or family.

Young and more active users may want to avoid this type of wheelchair. Most models cannot be self-propelled, and they can be a bit heavier than lightweight chairs. Some reclining models only have four small wheels, which makes them nearly impossible to propel with your arms.

These chairs are fairtypically cannot be folded up and stored in the trunk of a car, so if transportability is a concern, a reclining chair may not be the best option for you.

What to Look for When Buying a Reclining Back Wheelchair

There are several features that you should be looking for when buying a wheelchair with a reclining back:

  • Adjustable Armrests: For personalized comfort, you want a chair that offers adjustable armrests. Ideally, the armrests will also flip up or can be removed altogether to make it easier to get in and out of the chair.
  • Tilt Feature: A tilt feature helps prevent skin breakdowns as it helps distribute the weight evenly.
  • Cushion and Seat Pan: Look for models that have a comfortable cushion. The seat pan should be solid to better support the cushion.
  • Anti-Tipping Feature: An anti-tipping feature can prevent the chair from accidently tipping backwards.

Click here to see our recommended vertical platform lifts

Our Top 3 Reclining Wheelchair Picks

To help you find the right reclining high back wheelchair, we’ve hand-picked three best-selling models that meet all or most of the criteria above.

1.      Drive Medical Silver Sport Reclining Wheelchair

Drive Medical Silver Sport

The Silver Sport reclining chair from Drive Medical uses a hydraulic reclining system to allow for virtually limitless adjustments up to 180-degrees.

With calf and extended arm support, this chair allows users to safely recline to their desired position without straining muscles or joints. The leg rests can be elevated to prevent sores on the feet and calves, and they can also be swung away from the chair for easy entry and exit.

The Mag-style wheels are virtually maintenance-free and lightweight for easy use. And because the wheels are set back on the frame, this chair cannot be tipped backwards.

The nylon upholstery is comfortable, while the carbon steel frame creates an attractive look.

The durability, design and safety features of this chair make it one of our favorite models on the market. In our opinion, we feel the Drive Medical Silver Sport is the best reclining wheelchair you can buy in 2020.

Click here to learn more about the Silver Sport on Amazon.

2.      Drive Medical Sentra Reclining Wheelchair

Drive Medical Sentra

Drive Medical’s Sentra is a high back reclining wheelchair with a similar design to our previous pick. The primary difference between the two is the backrest design.

The hydraulic reclining mechanism allows you to adjust the backrest to virtually any position you please up to 180 degrees. A cushioned head immobilizer keeps the head and neck in a safe position, while the elevating leg rests prevent leg sores.

The triple carbon steel frame is highly durable, and the anti-tip wheels prevent this chair from tipping backwards. The detachable desk arms are also a convenient feature.

With a weight capacity of 450 pounds, the Sentra is a great option for virtually all users.

Click here to view pricing and availability of the Sentra on Amazon.

3.      Medline Excel Reclining Wheelchair

Medline Excel reclining wheelchair

The Medline Excel offers one thing that most reclining chairs do not: portability. When not in use, this chair can be folded up and transported wherever needed.

The dual axle design allows for easy seat height adjustment. Standard anti-tippers are built in to prevent the chair from tipping backwards, while the vinyl upholstery adds to the durability of this chair.

The arms are desk length for added convenience, while the leg rests elevate to further prevent pressure sores. The leg supports also pivot out to the side to make it easy to get in and out of the chair.

The Excel’s 300-pound weight capacity makes this model a good fit for most users. As an added bonus, the headrest is removable, so you can customize the comfort level of this chair.

Click here to learn more about the Medline Excel reclining wheelchair.