Wheelchair propulsion plays a significant role in the development of shoulder pain in manual wheelchair users (MWU). However wheelchair propulsion metrics related to shoulder pain are not clearly understood. This investigation examined intra-individual kinematic spatial variability during semi-circular wheelchair propulsion as a function of shoulder pain in MWU. Data from 10 experienced adult MWU with spinal cord injury (5 with shoulder pain; 5 without shoulder pain) were analyzed in this study. Participants propelled their own wheelchairs on a dynamometer at 3 distinct speeds (self-selected, 0.7 m/s, 1.1 m/s) for 3 minutes at each speed. Motion capture data of the upper limbs were recorded. Intra-individual kinematic spatial variability of the steady state wrist motion during the recovery phase was determined using principal component analysis (PCA). The kinematic spatial variability was calculated at every 10% intervals (i.e at 11 interval points, from 0% to 100%) along the wrist recovery path. Results: Overall, spatial variability was found to be highest at the start and end of the recovery phase and lowest during the middle of the recovery path. Individuals with shoulder pain displayed significantly higher kinematic spatial variability than individuals without shoulder pain at the start (at 10% interval) of the recovery phase (p<.004). Conclusions: Analysis of intra-individual kinematic spatial variability during the recovery phase of manual wheelchair propulsion distinguished between those with and without shoulder pain. Variability analysis of wheelchair propulsion may offer a new approach to monitor the development and rehabilitation of shoulder pain.
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