Background: Most individuals with spinal cord injury who use manual wheelchairs experience shoulder pain related to wheelchair use, potentially in part from mechanical impingement of soft tissue structures within the subacromial space. There is evidence suggesting that scapula and humerus motion during certain wheelchair tasks occurs in directions that may reduce the subacromial space, but it hasn't been thoroughly characterized in this context. Methods: Shoulder motion was imaged and quantified during scapular plane elevation with/without handheld load, propulsion with/without added resistance, sideways lean, and weight-relief raise in ten manual wheelchair users with spinal cord injury using biplane fluoroscopy and computed tomography. For each position, minimum distance between rotator cuff tendon insertions (infraspinatus, subscapularis, supraspinatus) and the coracoacromial arch was determined. Tendon thickness was measured with ultrasound, and impingement risk scores were defined for each task based on frequency and amount of tendon compression. Findings: Periods of impingement were identified during scapular plane elevation and propulsion but not during pressure reliefs in most participants. There was a significant effect of activity on impingement risk scores (P < 0.0001), with greatest impingement risk during scapular plane elevation followed by propulsion. Impingement risk scores were not significantly different between scapular plane elevation loading conditions (P = 0.202) or propulsion resistances (P = 0.223). The infraspinatus and supraspinatus tendons were both susceptible to impingement during scapular plane elevation (by acromion), whereas the supraspinatus was most susceptible during propulsion (by acromion and coracoacromial ligament). Interpretation: The occurrence of mechanical impingement during certain manual wheelchair tasks, even without increased load/resistance, demonstrates the importance of kinematics inherent to a task as a determinant of impingement. Frequency of and technique used to complete daily tasks should be carefully considered to reduce impingement risk, which may help preserve shoulder health long-term.
- Rotator cuff
- Subacromial space
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine