Mobility scooters are medical devices that can be used to help people with specific conditions such as chronic arthritis, back pain, shortness of breath, and many other types of disabilities get around their communities with less effort. This may sound like a straightforward subject that doesn’t require much additional thought. A person might say, “I’m having a lot of trouble with knee arthritis and pain. I’ll just go get a scooter.” This may not be the best way to handle this situation. The purpose of this article is to go over the pros and cons of mobility scooter purchase and to look at using one in your life from two different perspectives.
Let’s look at two different clinical scenarios, both of which I’ve had in my clinic before.
The first person is a 60-year-old male with obesity and chronic knee pain. He has had knee pain for years, starting slowly after playing football in high school and maybe college. He tells me that his knee pain affects him mainly when walking but also during activities around the house.
He has tried different medications such as Tylenol and Aleve without much benefit. His doctors have used steroid injections into the knee joints to help with pain, but this only improves his pain for a few weeks each time. He comes into the office looking for a prescription for a mobility scooter so that he can make it longer distances outdoors without so much pain to keep up with his family members.
The second person is a 60-year-old male with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) after a 45-year history of smoking. He has had progressive difficulty breathing over the course of the last five years. He takes multiple inhaled and oral medicines to help improve his shortness of breath to the point where he can feel comfortable at rest with oxygen flowing into his nose from a tank. He has quit smoking, but his pulmonary doctors don’t expect his condition to get much better. He comes to the office also looking for a prescription for a scooter to keep up with his family.
It might be easy to say that both of these men should go straight to using a mobility scooter. Doctors could make a case that both need them or both don’t.
When it comes to patients with chronic pain related to joint dysfunction or injuries, it is typical to recommend weight loss via exercise and diet modification because most people will be able to have an improvement in their pain by weight loss alone. As you can imagine, giving a person a mobility scooter prescription at the same time you tell them to lose weight might send mixed messages on how you want their lifestyle to change.
In terms of the patient with COPD, shortness of breath with a poor prognosis for improvement is actually more likely to warrant a mobility scooter prescription because of the low chance of improvement in this patient’s condition. If a person with COPD would continue to benefit and possibly improve from pulmonary rehabilitation, this might actually not be the best idea since exercise would be important to maintain/improve pulmonary function. As you can probably see, this is not always a clear cut decision.
Each patient is different in terms of their own individual needs for mobility. When considering scooter purchase, it is important to take into account that using a scooter will probably result in less exercise and more complications related to that such as obesity.