Flexibility exercises can help you keep your range of motion when you have an SCI. You may be able to do some of the flexibility exercises yourself. A loved one or a physical or occupational therapist can help you with others.
When you do these stretches, make sure that you have something solid behind you that doesn't move. You can try the stretches in your wheelchair (make sure that it's firmly locked) or in a bed against the headboard. Different locations might be better for different exercises. Find what works best for you.
Do all stretches gradually, and never force the stretch. Don't push or bounce the stretch. You should feel a "stretch," not pain. Breathe out as you start 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.
Here's a chest stretch you can try:
You can also stretch the front of your chest when you sit in a chair or wheelchair.
Here's a shoulder stretch you can try:
Here's a stretch you can start with:
Here's another one you can try:
You can also do this stretch by pushing your knee away from your leg:
Here's another one:
To do this next stretch, you loop a strap around the bottom of your foot:
This next stretch you do lying on your belly. People with a spinal cord injury who are sitting most of the time can get tight muscles in the front of their hips and the back of their legs. So it's important to spend time lying on your belly each day. Here's how:
Some people even learn to sleep on their belly, so they are in this position all night.
Consider doing your stretches in the morning or evening at the same time you check your skin for pressure injuries.
Keep in mind that it's 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's right for you.
If you aren't able to stretch your muscles yourself because of a spinal cord injury, you can do passive stretching. This means that someone stretches the muscle for you. This type of stretch can be done for upper and lower body muscles. Your rehabilitation (rehab) team will be able to teach a loved one how to do these exercises. They include:
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