Top 3 Beneficial Exercises for a Spinal Cord Injury

Spinal Cord Injury: 3 Best Exercises To Try
A significant part of the recovery process after a spinal cord injury involves exercise. Not only does spinal cord exercise improve muscle coordination and recovery time, but it also wards off the risk of other conditions that patients may be prone to, such as high levels of cholesterol or blood sugar. Let’s take a closer look at the best spinal cord injury exercises to help patients get back on their feet.

Understanding spinal cord injury
A spinal cord injury (SCI) is mutilation to the spinal cord that causes reversible or irreversible changes in its function. Symptoms may include loss of muscle function, sensation, or autonomic function in the parts of the body supplied by the spinal cord below the level of the injury. The treatment process typically involves a regenerative rehabilitation program that includes stem cell therapy, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, and speech and language therapy.

Importance of spinal cord exercise
Exercise is a critical component of a healthy lifestyle for anyone. However, it is particularly vital after a spinal cord injury. Muscles are weakened after the injury from prolonged periods of low activity, and regular spinal cord injury rehabilitation exercises are critical to recovering pre-injury levels of physical ability. Exercise also boosts cardiovascular health and keeps weight gain, cholesterol and high blood sugar at bay, all of which spinal cord injury patients are prone to. In addition, exercise for spinal cord pain improves the quality of sleep, reduces pain levels, and enhances the patient’s overall mood.

The best exercises for spinal cord injury patients
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), there are three main components to exercise for spinal cord pain, which we will be discussing as follows.

Strength training
Strength training for a spinal cord injury should target the major muscle groups with the aim of restoring and improving their functionality. Strength training can be done on the same day as aerobics, but it doesn’t count as an aerobic exercise in itself. The target areas for your spinal cord strengthening exercises will depend on the location and extent of your spinal cord injury. When doing strength training, try to structure it as a few sets of about 10 repetitions each per exercise, with rest in between each set. The goal should be to continue doing repetitions until you are unable to do any more without assistance. This category of spinal cord injury rehabilitation exercises also includes bed mobility exercises for spinal cord injury, sitting balance exercises for spinal cord injury, mat exercises for spinal cord injury, and so on.

Stretching
Spinal cord stretching exercises are a key part of exercise for spinal cord injury patients. They should ideally target areas that are prone to soreness and stiffness after a spinal cord injury, including the shoulders, hips, ankles, and knees. These spinal cord pain relief exercises can be done alone or with the assistance of a trainer or a friend. When stretching, try to hold the stretch for at least 30 to 60 seconds, and amp it up every time you repeat it. Feel free to stretch as many times during the day as you need to. You should also ideally stretch before and after your other workouts.

Aerobic exercise
This includes cardiovascular activities and are among the best exercises for spinal cord injury. To gauge how intensely you are working out, use the ‘talk test’. For medium-intensity exercise, you should be able to hold a normal conversation. For vigorous exercise, you should take a breath after every few words. To make the most of your aerobic spinal cord exercise, start with a low-intensity warm-up to get your heart rate going and finish with another low-intensity cooldown to bring your heart rate back to normal.

How much spinal cord exercise is ideal?
The CDC recommends three options of exercise regimes for spinal cord injury patients:

  • A total of 150 minutes of medium-intensity aerobic exercise every week, along with strength training on at least two days to exercise the major muscle groups
  • A total of 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise every week, along with strength training on at least two days to work the major muscle groups
  • A combination of both medium-intensity and vigorous exercise every week, coupled with strength training on at least two days to exercise the major muscle groups

If the patient is unable to follow any of these recommendations precisely, they should exercise to the best of their ability, in consultation with their doctor. Exercise sessions can be divided into multiple sets of at least 30 minutes per week, although even 10-15 minutes can work the body quite well. Above all, they should avoid inactivity.

Things to keep in mind during spinal cord injury exercise
It is essential for the patient to follow spinal cord injury exercise guidelines and to always be mindful of their bodies while working on their fitness. Here are some tips to follow to make the most of your spinal cord exercise sessions.

  • Choose specific goals for your exercise regime. Do you want to lose weight, or do you want to have an active gym life? Your spinal cord exercise routine will depend on those goals.
  • Invest in spinal cord injury exercise equipment that challenges you without causing actual discomfort. Ideally, start with light weights and easy equipment before moving up. 
  • If you are experiencing pain or discomfort of any sort, stop immediately and consult your physiotherapist. They may ask you to scale back on the intensity of your workouts.
  • Ask your physiotherapist about specific exercises that can target pain areas. For instance, spinal cord back pain relief exercises are great if you have injured your back during a workout or some other activity.
  • Incorporate spinal cord exercise into your daily routine. Walking, for instance, is an excellent aerobic exercise.
  • Experiment with different types of exercises until you find the combination that suits you best. For example, spinal cord strengthening exercises can be done with weights, resistance bands, standing frames, gym machines, and so on.
  • Invest in extra assistive equipment if you need them to exercise safely, such as cuffs to grip the equipment better or straps to improve your positioning and balance
  • Don’t be afraid to take rest days or to cut your exercise sessions short if you don’t feel up to it. You can always resume after a while.
  • Do activities that you find fun so that you are motivated to come back day after day. There are several types of exercise, including walking, running, swimming, yoga, boxing, biking, weightlifting, and so on. Experiment until you find the ones that you enjoy the most.

While recovering from a spinal cord injury can be a long and arduous journey, the right spinal cord injury rehabilitation exercises will speed up the recovery while boosting physical and mental well-being. Talk to your therapist today about how you can integrate spinal cord exercise into your daily routine.