What Is the Best Way to Self Propel a Lightweight Manual Wheelchair

The semicircular (left) motion is the best propelling action. Compared to the other three, the semi-circular has a more extended implementation, which means the user will less frequently need to propel, therefore there is no additional stress on the joints. 

The arc-shaped mode (third picture) is most likely going uphill, with smaller and more frequent propels, to prevent the wheelchair from sliding down too rapidly. 

The contact and release points of different wheelchair propels. Source: Science Direct 

A great demonstration of how to propel a wheelchair in action. Video Source of manual wheelchair propels:  Propulsion Training

This clip should give you a good idea of the correct way to self propel a manual wheelchair. Remember: The length of a single wheel push should be as long as possible, and the frequency of pushes should be as minimal as possible. 

How can wheel size contribute to the best wheelchair propel?

The larger the diameter of the rear wheel, the larger the force is needed to push it. A 20” rear wheel will make a wheelchair lightweight and takes less effort to propel. The narrower the tyres, the less friction there is with the ground, and the easier it is to propel. 

Similarly, the smaller or narrower the front wheels are, the lower the frictional force with the ground, which is more labor-saving and agile. However, smaller wheels can also get stuck on rough roads or obstacles.


Not every wheelchair can be adjusted. You might need to find the best adjustable manual wheelchair first. With the correct rear wheel axle position, wheelchair adjustments, and proper propelling methods after training, the best wheel propelling can be achieved, and the probability of Repetitive Strain Injuries reduced.

If you are a dealer or distributor, then you can access videos on the Karma Academy to find out how to adjust Karma manual wheelchairs in more detail. If you are interested in becoming a dealer or distributor, you can contact our sales team: [email protected].

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