Life on Wheels – Gary Karp

Life on Wheels by Gary Karp – a book summary

I’ve read a few books about living with a disability, and some of my blogs will share a summary of each book. If you like the summary, please buy the book and read it. This review is for Life on Wheels by Gary Karp.

Life on Wheels by Gary Karp

Kindle edition on

Book on



  • I remember back to my non-disabled life, I hated the thought of being disabled and having to use a wheelchair for the rest of my life.  How could I ever be happy about losing the ability to walk?  I didn’t know about all the other things relating to paraplegia.  A wheelchair isn’t something bad, it’s something great, that makes life easier
  • Have a good relationship with a family doctor.  Local GPs don’t always deal with disability all the time, so have to educate them
  • Must work harder to maintain overall well-being, and less prone you will be to secondary conditions pertaining to your disability
  • Pain is hard to diagnose
  • Shoulder tendonitis is the most common tissue pain in longtime chair users.  In SCI populations, studies have found rates of shoulder tendonitis as high as 31%.  Another study equated shoulder pain to years of disability; it found 52% reporting pain after five years, 62% at 10 years, 72% at 15 years, and 100% at 20 years.
  • Measures to keep your body flexible and strong.  Be active, design exercises that do not stress tissues; adjust the wheelchair for optimal propulsion, and keep tires inflated
  • Neuropathic pain – pain signals can result from sensory confusion in the body
  • The least invasive approach to managing pain is always preferred
  • Emotions have a great impact on pain
  • Fostering friendships, having satisfying activities, and getting out into the world can play important roles in your health.  They help keep you out of pain.
  • The last resort to treating pain is surgery.  Dorsal Rhizotomy is a procedure to cut nerves to simply turn off the pain impulse.  65% success rate.
  • The more strength your shoulders have, the more they can weather the demands placed on them by full-time wheeling
  • Our muscles tighten with overuse, so stretching to help them maintain this elasticity is another factor component of proactive safety for your shoulders
  • Pressures sores can be serious enough to kill, if not cared for properly
  • At its worst, a severe sore can progress into the tendon, muscle, and even bone issues.  Such sores are likely to require surgery
  • A long nursing facility stay will be necessary to allow the skin to integrate itself into the new location and for the wound where the flap was take taken to heal
  • Prevention with skincare – you can prevent pressure sores with vigilant skincare every day 1) regularly inspect areas that receive pressure 2)use the appropriate wheelchair cushion, and maintain it well 3) do push-ups often in your wheelchair for pressure relief
  • Use a tilt or recline system with your wheelchair
  • Do not use rough or irritating undergarments
  • Do not wear loose undergarments – wrinkles can cause increased pressure in small areas
  • Keep your buttocks clean
  • If your skin is dry, use moisturisers in areas of regular contact
  • If your skin is wet, bacteria and fungi can grow.  Moist is different from wet
  • Eat a balanced diet rich in nutrients needed for skin health
  • Rashes – look in the narrow places that don’t get much light or air.  Dry these areas well, even using a hairdryer on a cool setting if needed

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