Choosing a Reclining Wheelchairs for a Stroke Patient


When a friend or family member has suffered from a stroke, the first thing you want to know is how you can help. The best time to look for mobility aids is when the patient’s condition has stabilised and improved. At this time, choosing the right wheelchair for a stroke patient will impact the effectiveness of their rehabilitation. 

However, no “one” wheelchair is suitable for all stroke patients! Everyone has different symptoms, residual function, and lifestyles after having a stroke. 

The different types of strokes and levels of mobility. Source: About Wheelchair Blog

The patient is able to walk, but not far

For stroke patients at this level, actions such as sitting, standing, and walking are not greatly affected, but the patient’s speed and balance coordination are slightly worse. In this case, a lightweight aluminum wheelchair is recommended. 

The stroke patient can also use a large-wheeled (self-propelled) wheelchair to encourage physical activity if they have the appropriate upper body strength. However, if the stroke patient cannot propel themselves, a wheelchair with small wheels (attendant propelled) is lighter and easier to carry for a female or elderly caregiver. 

If the stroke patient is using a crutch or walker during rehabilitation, make sure to remember the principles of walking “Slow and Steady” and “Safety First”. 

The patient cannot walk but sits steadily 

When a stroke patient is left paralyzed, the main goal is to restore their walking ability; therefore, a folding wheelchair that will allow the user to shift easily from the wheelchair to the bed is required. These wheelchairs are equipped with removable arm and footrests that can free up space, allowing the user to use their non-paralyzed arm and foot to operate and propel the wheelchair.

 The flip-back armrests and detachable footrests make shifting to and from the wheelchair easy! Source: KARMA Medical S-Ergo 125

1. Outward Rotating Footrests

Being able to rotate the footrests outwards as well as inwards will aid the stroke patient’s journey to recovery. When footplates are removed, propelling the wheelchair is much easier. Check out this video demonstrating what we mean:

2. Seat Height Adjustment

Lowering the wheelchair’s seat height will make it easier for the user’s feet to reach the ground. This makes it easier to shift in and out of the chair as well as propel the chair.

The lower the seat height, the easier it is for the patient to use their feet. Source: KARMA Medical 

If a stroke has affected the patient’s lower body, then sometimes restoring a patient’s ability to walk is not possible. In this scenario, it could be time to consider an electric wheelchair. An powered wheelchair will allow the user to travel longer distances and gain back some independence. To operate a power wheelchair, the user will need good motor function, good cognitive, and visual abilities. Make sure to consult a doctor or physical therapist or talk to a wheelchair consultant.

If the stroke patient has good motor skills, cognitive, and visual abilities then they can consider using a power wheelchair. Source: KARMA Medical YouTube: New Blazer Power Wheelchair

When a patient cannot walk or sit independently

As a result of a stroke, these patients suffer the most severe symptoms and have less motor function. If these patients cannot hold up their upper body or head independently, then we recommend a wheelchair with high back support. Consider the following:

  • Can the user hold up their head and neck by themselves? If yes, we recommend a reclining wheelchair. 
  • The user cannot sit up straight independently, they may slide out of the chair or lean to one side due to being paralysed:Then we recommend aTilt-in-Space’ wheelchair
  • The user is completely unstable and needs to use a wheelchair long term: Then we recommend the reclining and ‘Tilt-in-Space” 2-in-1 wheelchair.

Another factor of the patient to consider is the strength of the hip joint

  • For users who are unable to sit up because of weak hip joints, a reclining wheelchair will allow the user to relax whilst still maintaining stability.
  • If the user has hip joint contracture, a reclining wheelchair can be used to adjust the seat to back angle to increase the user’s sitting stability. If the user only has hip joint contracture then a wheelchair with an adjustable back is sufficient.

 In one swift movement, reclining wheelchair users can be relaxing no matter where they are. Source: KARMA Medical YouTube: MVP502

  • Some patients have no control of their hip joints, for example, they cannot move their own buttocks to re-adjust their sitting position, therefore they need a Tilt-in-Space’ wheelchair. This function allows the caregiver to tilt the user back without constantly adjusting the user’s seating position. This relieves the pressure on the joints and distributes the user’s body weight evenly.

 VIP515 can give the user the ultimate comfort. Source: KARMA Medical YouTube: VIP515

  • Some patients lose control of the majority of their motor functions preventing them from sitting independently and readjusting their posture. If the user is going to spend every day in a wheelchair, we recommended that the patient uses a wheelchair that both reclines and Tilts-in-Space. The combination of these features will offer the most comfortable wheelchair experience for the user and make tasks easier for the caregiver.

VIP 2 is the 2-in-1 positioning wheelchair with both Tilt-in-Space and Recline functions. Source: KARMA Medical YouTube: VIP 2 – Tilt & Recline Wheelchair

We’re here to help

There is no best wheelchair, only the most suitable one! We have summarised each wheelchair mentioned so you can get to know which wheelchair is most suited to your stroke patient.  We hope that you can find the most suitable wheelchair! KARMA Malaysia is always here to assist. Talk to a KARMA representative today! 

Call us: 03-5612 1921 / 010 – 238 1921

Email us: [email protected]