Carbon Fiber Clinical Rationale: A Solution For Upper Extremity Preservation

It is imperative for clinicians and industry professionals to visualize and understand a client’s clinical presentation to properly identify the need for a carbon fiber ultra-lightweight manual wheelchair.

It is imperative to connect the dots between the client’s clinical impairments and the functional activities of daily living for procurement of funding.

Clinical rationale for prescribing an ultra-lightweight manual wheelchair can be broken up into two main categories: upper extremity preservation and propulsion efficiency. These are outlined below with the consequent rationale to help support justification.

Upper Extremity Preservation

Upper extremity conditions can lead to costly treatments or surgery, expensive hospital stays, and the potential need to transition into a power wheelchair.

  • Delay onset or prevent shoulder pain and overuse syndromes such as carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS)
  • Avoid musculoskeletal injury in the shoulder
    • Impingement, rotator cuff pathology, labrum tears

Propulsion Efficiency

Efficiency is defined as “the accomplishment of a job with a minimum expenditure of time and effort.” The goal is to have less push strokes per day and a longer distance achieved with each push stroke. By decreasing rolling resistance, one can significantly impact efficiency. 

  • Below are ways to reduce rolling resistance:
    • Appropriate tire selection
    • Optimal COG configuration that is only available on an ultra-lightweight manual wheelchair
    • Provide the lightest weight wheelchair that accommodates the client’s goals and environment
    • Proper configuration


At Motion Composites, our MotionU team is passionate about educating clinicians and end users on the rationale behind why carbon fiber is a solution for optimal upper extremity preservation and propulsion efficiency. We believe it should be more widely utilized in the manual wheelchair community. The properties of carbon fiber and how they can significantly improve a client’s quality of life can now be found in our one-page justification handout!



You can read more about the other beneficial characteristics of carbon fiber in our Carbon Fiber 101: Everything you need to know about it blog post and our technology page.



  1. Rehabilitation Engineering & Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA). 2012. Position on the Application of Ultralight Manual Wheelchairs [position paper]. Retrieved from: RESNA: (2011). Position on the Application of Ultralight Manual Wheelchairs [position paper].
  2. Paralyzed Veterans of America Consortium for Spinal Cord Medicine (2005). “Preservation of upper limb function following spinal cord injury: A clinical guideline for health-care professionals.” Journal of Spinal Cord Medicine, 28(5):434–470

About Erin Maniaci, PT, DPT

Education Specialist

Erin holds a Doctorate in Physical Therapy from the University of Missouri. She began her career in a Spinal Cord Injury rehab hospital where she grew her expertise in seating and education. She expanded upon that expertise working in outpatient neurology and as an educator for a local complex rehab supplier. Erin puts strong emphasis on building patient rapport and cultivating relationships.