Fellow 2009-10

Jacob J Sosnoff

Kinesiology & Community Health

Wheelchair Use and Shoulder Pain: The Role of Motor Variability

An estimated 1.5 million people in the United States use manual wheelchairs. Up to 70 percent of them report upper-limb pain, manifested mainly in the shoulder and wrist, that is believed to result from relying on their upper limbs to achieve mobility and perform many functional activities. The pain, in turn, leads to decreased mobility, difficulty performing activities of daily living, and a reduced quality of life. Professor Sosnoff proposes to learn the mechanisms that contribute to upper-limb pathology in manual wheelchair users and develop appropriate interventions to prevent or minimize the effect of pain on function.

During his Center appointment, Professor Sosnoff will work with thirty test subjects at the University of Illinois who use manual wheelchairs. Sixty percent of the subjects have previously reported shoulder pain. The subjects will propel their wheelchairs for 30 minutes on a stationary roller system while 6 cameras capture the motion of their hands, forearms, upper arms, and trunks. Reflective markers placed on bony landmarks of both upper extremities will help to track the movement of the arm and wrist during each wheelchair push.

Subsequent analysis of the data gathered will quantify the association between variability of the limbs’ movement and shoulder pain and help to identify manual wheelchair users who are most at risk for developing upper-limb pathology. This is a pilot project, and the dataset will serve as the initial wave of a planned larger, longitudinal analysis. Ultimately, the research is expected to result in better assessment of shoulder pain and more targeted interventions aimed at reducing shoulder pain in people who use manual wheelchairs.