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Spinal Cord Injury: Safe Transfers To or From a Wheelchair

Overview

After your spinal cord injury (SCI), you may need a wheelchair. Moving from your wheelchair to other locations is known as a transfer. If you have enough upper body strength, you may be able to do this yourself.

Your injury and strength will determine what type of transfer you do. But there are general things that are important to know when you transfer.

  • Get close.

    Make sure there is as little distance as possible between the transfer surfaces. If the distance is too great, use a transfer board. It can bridge the gap between the two transfer surfaces, making it easier.

  • Try to make the two transfer surfaces as close in height as you can.
  • Make sure the transfer surfaces are stable.

    Lock your wheelchair. And be sure that the other surface won't move.

  • Protect your skin.

    Be aware of objects your skin can scrape against during the transfer. This scraping can cause pressure injuries.

  • If you have a catheter, be aware of objects that it can catch on.
  • Clear the area.

    If you can, remove objects that may interfere with your transfer. This could include arm or leg rests.

  • Prevent falls.

    If you will be walking on a floor, be sure you have no-skid shoes. Make sure that there are no throw rugs or other objects in the way.

  • Ask for help.

    If you worry about being able to transfer yourself, ask for help. Explain to the person helping you exactly what you need help with.

Related Information

Credits

Current as of: December 13, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Nancy Greenwald MD - Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation