Spinal cord injury: 3 exercises to do for better mobility and health

A severe impact to your spine that fractures, dislocates, crushes, or compresses one or more of your vertebrae can result in a traumatic spinal cord injury. But if you think it will leave you with a sheer lack of mobility, you may want to rethink. Doing certain spinal cord injury exercises can help you stay fitter and healthier.

A recent study looked into whether people with spinal cord injuries can walk and run.  The international research was successful in regaining muscular movement in a model of organically paralyzed mice through artificial nerves. The researchers trained a paralyzed mouse to walk, kick a ball, and run on a treadmill. Furthermore, the study team demonstrated the potential future use of artificial nerves for voluntary movement by extracting samples of recorded signals from the motor cortex of moving animals and controlling the legs of mice using artificial synapses. Thus, it was discovered that individuals with spinal cord injuries can run and walk.

Health Shots spoke to Dr Rajesh Kumar, Consultant Orthopedics, Manipal Hospitals, Ghaziabad to know what type of exercises can help if you have a spinal cord injury.

spine exercises
Spinal health can be improved! Image Courtesy: Shutterstock

3 types of exercises that can help you if you have a spinal cord injury:

1. Stretching

Stretching is important for people with spinal cord injuries to prevent and alleviate tight muscles and joints. All main muscle groups should be stretched as part of a thorough flexibility routine. Your shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles should be your main areas of attention as they are frequently tight after injury. You can stretch on your own or with assistance from a trainer, therapist, family member, or friend. Even daily stretching sessions can be beneficial for certain spinal cord injury sufferers. First, spend at least 30 seconds gently stretching each muscle group. Consider stretching both before and after strength training and cardiovascular exercise.

2. Strength training

The main muscle groups that you can control should be the focus of your strength training.

Strength training exercises include:
* Trunk push-ups
* Cross fit balance work
* Isometric back exercises
* Spinal twists
* Lean in all directions
* Lower-body twists

Also read: A spinal cord injury survivor reconnects to her body through dance on her ‘hot wheels’

spinal cord issues
Do the right exercises under guidance. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Each person’s muscles will be different according to their injury. Plan to complete each exercise at least 10 times in the beginning (10 repetitions = 1 set). Take a brief rest. Every set should be repeated one or twice. Strength training is most effective when you push yourself until you need assistance to complete another exercise.

3. Aerobic workout

Cardiovascular health benefits of aerobic exercise are highly helpful. Aerobic exercises include:

* Cycling by hand
* Rowing
* Exercise in circuits
* Swimming
* Wheelchair basketball game.
* Briskly pushing your wheelchair (if you use a wheelchair)

The “talk test” can be used to determine how intense your workout is. The test is pretty simple. You should be able to talk while exercising at a moderate level, but not sing. Also, you shouldn’t be able to speak for more than a few sentences without pausing to take a breath if you are engaging in vigorous-intensity exercise.

Lastly if you’re having spinal cord injury, you cannot maintain your fitness just by a normal everyday routine. Regular exercise can help you lower the chance of developing any health issues after the injury. Also, ask your therapist to recommend the exercises that are ideal for you based on the position and level of your injury.

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