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Mobility Impairment

Mobility Impairment


Mobility impairment can include any or all of the following:
  • inability to move about as easily as others
  • limited movement of arms or legs
  • decrease in strength or control of the muscles and bones
  • abnormal or impaired coordination
  • medical condition requiring bed rest
  • What is the information for this topic?

    Impairment means some part of a person's body or mind does not function normally. To be an impairment, the problem must interfere with "normal" activities. There are many types and levels of mobility impairments. Some things that determine them are:
    • a decrease of strength or endurance
    • the presence of pain or discomfort
    • impaired ability to recognize familiar surroundings
    • depression or severe anxiety
    • impaired ability to use the muscles. This impaired ability may be from nervous system problems or from problems with the muscles or bones.
    A mobility impairment may result from any of a wide variety of conditions, illnesses, or injuries. These may include:
    • cerebral palsy, which is caused by a brain injury that occurs during pregnancy, during birth, or after birth before the age of 5.
    • head injury
    • muscular dystrophy. This is an inherited muscle disorder that leads to muscle weakness.
    • multiple sclerosis. This is a disorder in which the nerves of the eye, brain, and spinal cord are affected.
    • amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease. This is a progressive disorder of the nervous system leading to muscle weakness and spasticity.
    • Parkinson's disease, a slowly progressive degenerative disorder of the nervous system.
    • stroke. This is the death of brain tissue due to lack of blood flow and insufficient oxygen to the brain.
    • arthritis, the inflammation of one or more joints
    • amputation of a body part
    • spinal cord injury
    • severe burns
    • brain tumor
    • developmental disabilities such as Down syndrome
    • autoimmune disorders such as Guillain-Barré syndrome
    • fractures of the limbs
    • blindness or other visual impairment
    • old age
    Some of these conditions may be temporary, but many are permanent. The individual may need assistive devices such as a cane, crutches, a walker or a wheelchair. Physical therapy is often used for many of these problems. This can keep the joints flexible, and the muscles stretched. Therapy may improve the ability to move about, and teach the person to use the assistive devices.
    If the mobility is due to an amputation, artificial limbs can help the person return to daily activities. Some people are severely disabled, and may depend on assistive devices for daily activities.
    Generally, people prefer to be as independent as possible. It is best for others to ask permission before helping someone with an impairment. Someone who uses a wheelchair may be especially sensitive about this. It is important not to push a person's wheelchair without asking his or her permission. One should also not lean on a person's wheelchair during conversation.


    Rehabilitation Nursing: Concepts and Practice (1987). Evanston, IL: Rehabilitation Nursing Foundation Hoeman, Shirley P (1996). Rehabilitation Nursing, Process and Application. St. Louis, Missouri: Mosby-Year Book, Inc.

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