Zimmer frames are a common sight in the nation’s hospitals and clinics. They provide excellent support for patients in a range of circumstances and are used for effective rehabilitation. There are a variety of Zimmer frames available and they have been greatly improved to take into account the restrictions normally found around the home.
This guide provides an overview of the types of Zimmer frames and accessories available, how to assess the correct size and what alternatives are available. Please click on the following links or scroll down for further information:
- Zimmer frames
- Folding Zimmer frames
- Other types of Zimmer frames
- Zimmer frame accessories
- Assessing the correct size for you
- Alternatives to Zimmer frames
Zimmer frames are typically used around the home to provide support when walking. These types of frames tend to be made from aluminium and have four feet in contact with the ground. The feet are fitted with rubber ferrules to enhance grip and avoid the frame slipping.
The standard Zimmer frame used in most hospitals is approximately 25″ (64cm) wide. This size is preferred to accommodate users of all sizes, and can easily fit through the wide hospital doors. However, a Zimmer frame this wide can be difficult to use in a domestic environment. To improve useability around the home, narrower frames are now produced to cope with narrow internal doorways and halls. There are two categories:
- Domestic frames which have a width of 22″ (53cm)
- Ultra Narrow frames which have a width of just 20″ (49cm)
However, you should consider your size in relation to the frame dimension rather than plumping for the narrowest frame possible. You should also remember that the frame narrows towards the front by approximately 2″ on each side making the front of the frame 4″ narrower than the rear. This can cause difficulties if you are wider or taller than average.
Also, narrower frames offer less stability than a wider frame base and should only be considered where you are less likely to place disproportionate weight on any side of the frame.
Virtually all Zimmer frames are height adjustable. This is achieved by either a ball bearing or E clip adjuster on each leg. Typically a frame will have 5 different height possibilities normally at 1″ increments.
In order to accommodate all possible heights of users, the frames are generally available in 3 or 4 different height ranges from 26″ (67cm) up to 37″ (94cm). Please see below for guidance on how to choose the correct frame height for you.
Some users find walking with a Zimmer cumbersome due to having to pick the frame up and move forward with each step. This situation can be improved by fitting wheels in place of the front two feet of the frame. With wheels fitted, it is possible to lift the back of the frame and push it forwards making for a smoother walking pattern. It also tends to increase the speed at which you can walk.
However, you must be aware that the front wheels do not swivel and can be harder to manouevre when navigating corners. This may necessitate the frame having to be lifted to navigate sharp turns.
Please click here to see our range of zimmer frames.
Traditional Zimmer frames are bulky and can be difficult to store and transport. It is often a surprise to users how difficult it can be to fit a normal Zimmer frame into a car boot or back seat which can impose an unnecessary hurdle to going out with family and friends.
Folding Zimmer frames have been developed to help overcome these issues. There are two mainstream folding mechanisms for four feet Zimmer frames:
1) Hinged front legs
This design has the front section of the frame on a hinge with the back section of the frame. The folding mechanism is activated by pulling a ball which is mounted on a piece of string. When this ball is pulled towards you, the brace bar which runs around the bottom of the frame slides up. At the same time the front section moves inwards until the front and back legs meet.
This type of mechanism is easy and intuitive to use but does not result in a completely flat frame when folded. However, it does reduce the size sufficiently to get the frame into a car boot or to store in a wardrobe for example.
Please click the link to see our folding zimmer frame with wheels.
- Side folding frame
This type of folding Zimmer frame has a different frame to the traditional Zimmer. Instead of the frame narrowing to the front, these frames are the same width at the front as they are at the back. To fold the frame, a locking catch must be depressed using the palm of your hand on the bar which runs across the front of the frame. This allows each side to be folded in to meet the front section. When folded, this type of frame is flat and more space efficient.
Other types of Zimmer Frame
Forearm Zimmer Frames
This type of frame is essentially the same as a standard Zimmer but with forearms troughs rather than handgrips. This allows you to transfer the weight through your forearms rather than your hands. This will be particularly helpful if you have painful or arthritic hands and find gripping the frame difficult. The position of the trough and the upright hand grips are adjustable.
Reciprocal Zimmer Frames
A reciprocal Zimmer frame operates with a pivot mechanism for each side. This allows you to lift up and move forward one side of the frame at a time. This tends to be more in step with how you walk naturally and may feel more intuitive to use. However, careful consideration should be given to how much weight is being placed on the frame and whether having one arm forward of the other may create difficulties. If in doubt talk to your OT or physio about whether this type of frame could be right for you.
Zimmer Frame Accessories
There are a range of accessories available to make your Zimmer frame more useful around the home. Most of these centre on the problem or carrying items with you around the home. Care should be taken with these accessories to ensure that the weight of the items being carried does not upset the balance of the frame and make it unstable.
This mesh net bag is attached to the frame with simple clips and can hold a variety of different objects. The position of the bag close to the hand grips makes it very accessible. The height of the opening to the bag makes it easy to load and unload whilst seated. Examples of items that could be carried include shopping, washing and other large items. The net bag is less well suited to carrying smaller items such as your glasses which may get caught in the net making them difficult to retrieve.
This bag is attached like an apron around the outside top of the frame. It provides 3 large pockets – one at the front and one at each side. These are an ideal size for carrying things like newspaper and books, with the smaller pockets useful for items such as glasses, medication and a hands free phone. The bag is easy to attach and remove for cleaning.
This Caddy is the first multi-purpose solution for a Zimmer frame and has the real benefit of enabling you to transport food and drink safely. The Caddy is supplied with a tray which slots over the storage compartment to provide a flat surface on which to put a plate. The shape of the top tray is designed especially to hold the plate in the centre of the tray. There is a special cup holder which keeps it from sliding around as it is transported. The storage compartment provides useful space for a host of different things you may need to keep with you. The Buckingham Caddy is best used with a wheeled walker especially if you intend to use it for food and drink.
Assessing the correct size for you
The height of the walking frame is extremely important – too low and you will find yourself stooping when you walk; too high and you will put strain on your elbows and not be able to transmit your body weight effectively through to the frame.
Thankfully the days of fixed height Zimmers have gone and virtually all frames incorporate a height adjustment mechanism. These mechanisms typically provide 5 height positions at 1” increments. Most frame types are produced in 3 or 4 sizes each with an increasing range of heights achievable. Once you have measured the ideal for height you, you should purchase the frame which has your height most central in the range of possible heights.
What do we mean when we talk about the height of the frame? This is always measured to the height of the handgrips not to the maximum height of the frame. All measurements will be with respect to hand height.
The ideal height for you is measured as the height of your wrist bone from the floor when you are standing upright with you arms at your side. Remember not to straighten your arms but measure it when your elbows are very slightly bent. You should also wear your regular indoor footwear when carrying out the measurement.
Whilst not as important as height, the width of the frame can be an important factor. The most suitable width will be determined both by your size and the environment in which you intend to use the frame. It is important that if you intend to use the frame around your home, that you measure the internal width of all doorways in your house. You should try and allow at least 2” either side of the frame so that manoeuvring through doorways is not too difficult and you don’t scrape your hands.
You also need to assess the width of the frame relative to the width you are likely to need to walk comfortably. To do this, measure the maximum width across your feet when you are standing with your legs a comfortable distance apart. This should be compared to the stated width of your chosen frame.
Alternatives to a Zimmer Frame
These are specially adapted trolley’s which provide additional confidence when walking and assist with carrying things around the home. They are designed to be pushed in front of you as you walk and typically have four swivel castor feet making them extremely easy to manoeuvre. The trolley is usually gripped with angled hand grips on each side or by a bar which runs along the back of the frame.
These trolleys tend to have two shelves for carrying food, drinks and other items. The bottom shelf is set forward to give additional space for your legs when walking. These trolleys are particularly useful for transporting food and drink as you do not have to lift the trolley to move forwards.
However, it must be noted that these trolleys do not have any brakes on the castors. Therefore, this type of trolley would not be suitable where you need a lot of support or place a lot of weight on to the trolley.
Most metal frame trolleys are height adjustable which tends to be via telescopic legs. To assess the right height you should use the same process outlined above. However, the height of a trolley is much less important as you will not be transferring weight on to the frame as with a Zimmer frame. The objective is to ensure that the trolley is at a comfortable height for you.
Wheeled Walked or Rollators
These come in three or four wheeled versions and are typically used outside. However, they can be effective when used indoors, particularly the three wheel versions. We have prepared a separate Buying Guide on Wheeled Walkers – please click here.