A spinal cord injury (SCI) makes movement difficult. Movement is what keeps your muscles and joints flexible and helps prevent spasticity. If you cannot move your muscles and joints easily, you may lose some of your range of motion. This will make it harder to perform daily activities, such as getting dressed or moving between your wheelchair and another location. Flexibility exercises can help you retain your range of motion.
Most people work hard to stay flexible. But it is possible to stretch too much. This can make it harder to balance and to do activities such as dressing yourself. Work with your rehabilitation team to come up with a stretching program that is right for you.
You may be able to do some of the flexibility exercises yourself. A loved one or therapist can help you with others. It may be convenient to do your stretches in the morning or evening at the same time you inspect your skin for pressure injuries.
When you do these stretches, make sure you have something solid behind you that does not move. You can try the stretches in your wheelchair (make sure it is firmly locked) or in a bed against the headboard. Different locations might be better for different exercises. Experiment to see what works best for you.
Do all stretches gradually, and never force the stretch. Do not push or bounce the stretch. You should feel a "stretch," not pain. Breathe out as you begin the stretch, and breathe in while you hold the stretch. Breathe out as you relax the stretch.
How long and how often you do a stretch may vary. The information below shows general guidelines. Always ask your doctor about what is best for you.
A passive stretch is a stretch where someone stretches a muscle for you. This type of stretch can be done for upper and lower body muscles. Your rehab team will be able to teach a loved one how to do these exercises. They include:
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