A severe trauma to your spine, which causes fractures, dislocates, or crushes one or more of the vertebrae can lead to a spinal cord injury. People suffering from a spinal cord injury or SCI face problems in volitional motor control and sensation that limit not only the performance of daily tasks but also the overall activity level of these persons. If a spinal cord injury disturbs the signaling process between the brain and body, practicing spinal cord injury exercises can be helpful in bringing this communication back. Rehab exercises are important for stimulating neuroplasticity, the central nervous system’s power to restore itself, and strengthen the pathways.
Besides the discomforting symptoms, people with a spinal cord injury are at a higher risk of developing several health problems than the general population. These issues are mostly related to weight gain, fluctuations in cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and high blood glucose. People suffering from SCI are also more likely to develop heart disease, because of incapability to be physically active. Make sure to take guidance from a fitness expert to perform the exercises safely, and without putting your spinal cord at more risk. Read the article further to know about the exercises that you can do if you have a spinal cord injury.
Exercises that you can do if you have spinal cord injury
Stretching is one of the most important parts of an exercise routine for people with SCI. Doing it daily can treat the stiffness in muscles and joints. An effective flexibility regimen can help in stretching all primary muscle groups. You should aim at stretching your shoulders, buttocks, knees, and ankles, as these are common parts of tightness after SCI. You can stretch by yourself or take help from a trainer, therapist, family member, or even a friend. It is recommended to stretch almost all days of the week. Some people with SCI get relief by stretching several times in a day. Start by gently stretching every muscle group for around thirty seconds. Repeat the stretch a few times, each time trying to move a little bit more. In addition, it is better to stretch before and after practicing aerobic exercises and strength training.
2. Arm circles
To perform arm circle exercise, stretch your arms outwards to the sides so that your body forms a 'T' shape. Then, move your arms in a circular motion from forward to backward. You can change between doing big circular motions or smaller ones.
3. Straight leg lifts
For straight leg lifts, lie down, keep your legs straight, and lift one of the legs without bending the knees. When the leg is as high as you can go, hold in the position for a few seconds. Bring the leg down and lift the alternate leg next. Try to focus on your core muscles while performing this exercise to avoid putting pressure or stress on your lower back.
4. Strength training
Strength training can also be practiced at home, on the same or different day as your cardio exercise. Strength training helps in focusing on the main muscle groups that can be controlled. These muscles are different for everyone depending on their injury. In the initial phase, you can perform every exercise at least ten times (ten reps). Take a small break. And then, do each set one or two times. To get the best out of your resistance training, try to practice it until a point where it is tough for you to do more reps without support.
The best method to enhance mobility after such an injury is to practice spinal cord injury exercises regularly. This helps in improving the neuroplasticity in unaffected areas of the spinal cord and make those pathways stronger that are responsible for movement. Every spinal cord injury is different and each patient goes through distinct functional problems, thus, so try not to get demotivated if an exercise seems too difficult for you. A therapist or caregiver can help you in better mobility and give SCI exercises for your level.
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