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If you're new to using a wheelchair, you may not realize how important the armrests are until you've used the chair for a while. Wheelchair arms come in different styles and you may prefer one over the other depending on how you use your wheelchair. Here's a look at two of the choices in wheelchair arms you should know about when buying a new chair.
Some chairs are made with full-length arms. These armrests are the full length of the chair from front to back. The front end of the arm is usually supported by a bar that makes up the front frame of the wheelchair. These arms are useful if you want full support for your arms while watching television or resting. This might be important if your arm has a cast or if you've lost full control of an arm and need to have it repositioned throughout the day. Another benefit of full-length arms is that they can support a tray across the front of the wheelchair. This allows you to attach a tray for dining, doing crafts, or using a laptop. Full-length arms are also sturdy, which is important if you need to press your full weight against the arms to stand or get in and out of the chair.
Desk-length arms are not as long as the full-length version. These have enough space for resting your elbows, but your arms will need to rest in your lap since the arms are short. The big advantage of these arms is that they stay out of the way so you can roll the wheelchair right up to a table. If you plan to work at a desk or dine at the family table, then you'll want desk-length arms on your wheelchair. These arms don't make up part of the frame like the full-length arms, so they are often made to swing away. The arms may come off completely or just swing up and back to get out of the way so you can slide into the chair sideways. If you need to transfer into your chair with a sliding board, then you'll need desk-length arms that swing away.
No matter which type of arms you buy for your chair, try to buy a chair that has height-adjustable arms. These allow you to raise or lower the height of the arms so your elbows rest comfortably without putting stress on your back or shoulders. In addition, you can customize the arms in ways that make them more comfortable for you such as wrapping them in foam or sheepskin to make them soft. If you'll be spending a lot of time in your wheelchair, be sure to think about how you'll get in and out of it and whether you'll want to roll up to a table or attach a tray to the chair. That will help you pick a chair that works best for you.