What Are The Qualifying Diagnosis for Power Wheelchairs?

Written by Dayna
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What is a qualifying diagnosis for power wheelchairs? If you are looking to know what would qualify you to use a wheelchair, don’t worry.

My brother was diagnosed with a spinal injury that limited his mobility, and I helped him determine if the diagnosis was enough to warrant wheelchair usage.

Read on to discover what conditions make you need a wheelchair.

Key Takeaways

  • There are various qualifying diagnoses for wheelchair usage.
  • Wheelchair usage usually needs a physician’s recommendation.
  • Medicare and Medicaid provide free wheelchairs to qualified individuals.

What Diagnosis Qualifies for Wheelchair Usage

There is a variety of qualifying diagnoses for power wheelchair usage. But these conditions vary in intensity, and while one may need a cane, another state will demand power or manual wheelchairs.

Here are common diagnoses for which an occupational therapist will recommend a power wheelchair.

1. Alzheimer’s Disease

This is the most common type of dementia, starting with mild memory loss to severe situations of no speech and responses. According to the CDC, 5.8 million Americans lived with Alzheimer’s in 2020. (1)

Scientists have not discovered the cause of this condition but attribute it to age and family history. There is no cure, but early detection can help manage it.

2. Spinal Cord Injuries

These injuries happen after a sudden impact on the tight bundle of cells and nerves connecting the body to your brain. You may have a complete or incomplete spinal injury depending on the damage.

There are four primary levels of spinal cord injuries: sacral, cervical, lumbar, and thoracic. Scientists are conducting more research to better spinal injury treatments. (2)

Check out this YouTube from Dr. Matt & Dr. Mike on the different spine injury levels.

3. Cerebral Palsy

This condition usually affects a person’s posture and balance. Cerebral palsy often occurs before birth when a baby’s cerebral motor cortex develops abnormally. (3)

This condition takes four forms: spastic, ataxic, mixed, and dyskinetic. No treatment for this condition exists, but early detection can help improve the patient’s quality of life.

4. Parkinson’s Disease

This is a progressive condition that affects the body’s nervous system and parts associated with the nerves. Parkinson’s is usually unnoticeable initially but worsens over time. (4)

Common symptoms include limited mobility, slurred speech, tremors, and body imbalance. Unfortunately, there is no cure for this condition, but medical interventions can help relieve some symptoms.

Conditions Qualifying for Standard Wheelchair Usage

These are the conditions that usually qualify for manual wheelchair usage.

1. Arthritis

This condition usually arises from swelling or tenderness in one’s body joints. Over time, arthritis worsens and causes muscle stiffness and joint pains, limiting mobility.

The most common types of arthritis include rheumatoid and osteoarthritis. No cure exists, leaving patients dependent on treatments that reduce the symptoms.

2. Fibromyalgia

This chronic disorder causes tenderness and pain throughout an individual’s body. People with arthritis and back pain, among other conditions, are prone to fibromyalgia. (5)

There is no known cause for this condition, and healthcare professionals believe it runs through family history. Common symptoms include migraines, sleep problems, fatigue, chronic pain, and digestive problems.

3. Scoliosis

This abnormal sideways curvature of one’s spine is usually common in adolescents. Initial scoliosis can appear mild but usually worsens as the individual grows.

Doctors usually diagnose scoliosis through x-rays, an MRI, spinal radiography, or a CT scan. The professionals then use the Cobb method to determine the severity of the condition. (6)

Check out this YouTube video on how doctors examine scoliosis.

4. Degenerative Disc Disease

As we age, it becomes normal to experience discomfort when bending or lifting things. But if these activities cause pain, it may signify degenerative disc disease.

This condition arises when the spinal disks, functioning as shock absorbers, wear out because of cracks or drying out. Your physician will need to determine the intensity to recommend the best treatment.

How Health Care Professionals Recommend Wheelchair Usage

Physicians hold the final decision on the proper mobility device fit for a patient with disabilities. At most, these professionals will request to see a prior mobility examination record, like an x-ray.

What Are The Qualifying Diagnosis for Power Wheelchairs

You will also have a face-to-face session with the physician for brief medical documentation on your condition. The following are questions you might expect from the doctor:

  1. How does the health condition affect your daily living?
  2. Do you have the ability to operate the level of wheelchair recommended?
  3. Why can’t a rollator walker or cane meet your mobility needs?

Most physicians help with wheelchair selection by releasing proper qualification documentation to the mobility aid dealer. They can train you on proper wheelchair seating to ensure comfort.

How To Get Mobility Aids?

After determining you need a power or manual wheelchair to help with mobility, getting the device is usually the next step. Wheelchair costs can be low or high, depending on the design of the mobility device.

Fortunately, for low-income families, you can get your mobility device from Medicare or Medicaid. Charitable organizations also help people with disabilities get free wheelchairs to enhance accessibility.

If you cannot meet the requirements for a free wheelchair, you can buy one from mobility device dealers. Aside from new wheelchairs, you can buy a refurbished one that meets your budget.

Related: Are Wheelchairs Covered by Medicare?


Which health conditions diagnosis qualify for wheelchair usage?

A variety of health conditions meet the necessary diagnosis for wheelchair usage. Your physician will use your condition’s intensity to determine the best wheelchair model.

How does a physician diagnose conditions warranting wheelchair usage?

A physician diagnoses conditions by checking medical history and having a physical examination.

Does an arthritis patient qualify to be a wheelchair user?

An arthritis patient can qualify to become a wheelchair user depending on the intensity of their condition. The condition eats away at the joint cartilage, causing limited mobility.


Determining a proper qualifying diagnosis for power wheelchairs is essential for people facing mobility issues. With the right diagnosis, you will have a best-fit wheelchair to meet your mobility needs.

So, as highlighted, various conditions qualify you to become a power or standard wheelchair user. But it is best to go to a doctor so they can recommend the proper medication route to take.

What Are The Qualifying Diagnosis for Power Wheelchairs

So, which condition applies to qualify you as a wheelchair user? Let us know in the comments section!


  • 1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias [Internet]. CDC. 2020. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/aging/aginginfo/alzheimers.htm
  • 2. Spinal Cord Injury | National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke [Internet]. www.ninds.nih.gov. Available from: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/health-information/disorders/spinal-cord-injury
  • 3. National Library of Medicine. Cerebral Palsy [Internet]. medlineplus.gov. Available from: https://medlineplus.gov/cerebralpalsy.html
  • 4. Poewe W, Seppi K, Tanner CM, Halliday GM, Brundin P, Volkmann J, et al. Parkinson disease. Nature Reviews Disease Primers. 2017;3:17013.
  • 5. NIAMS. Fibromyalgia [Internet]. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. 2017. Available from: https://www.niams.nih.gov/health-topics/fibromyalgia
  • 6. Horng M-H, Kuok C-P, Fu M-J, Lin C-J, Sun Y-N. Cobb Angle Measurement of Spine from X-Ray Images Using Convolutional Neural Network. Computational and Mathematical Methods in Medicine [Internet]. 2019;2019:1–18. Available from: https://www.hindawi.com/journals/cmmm/2019/6357171/

About Author

Dayna has an incredible passion for helping others and a keen business sense to boot. She also has a knack for anticipating the needs of her readers. She launched LoAids as a way to help her own loved ones live life to the fullest in their golden years. Follow her on LINKEDIN and TWITTER

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