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Posts Tagged ‘Spinal Cord Injuries and Exercise’

OR: FINALLY, A MEDICAL EXPLANATION HOW THIS INCOMPLETE PARAPLAEGIC’S WALKING CONTINUES TO IMPROVE

I came across an article from the University of Washington that blew my mind. I am excited, delighted and vindicated.

Some highlights:

Spasm caused by spinal cord injury can prevent voluntary movement of weak muscles. Sounds pretty simple. Except it’s not. Spasm can be complex and the cause, other than the obvious one that it is caused by sci,can be difficult to identify. Pain that is not felt can cause spam, so pain killers can help reduce spasm. Stretching can help reduce spasm. Weight-bearing and walking can reduce spasm. Good postural alignment whether sitting or standing can replasma spasm.

I’ve already learnt this through experimention. I take a cocktail of prescription drugs from muscle relaxants, to pain killers, to anti-epileptics, to a neural enhancer. I exercise five days a week at the gym under the supervision of a personal trainer who creatively extends my range of movement and improves mobility through gentle exercises that target weak muscles, and finds ways of reconnecting neural pathways. I stretch at regular intervals during the day.

Here’s the eye-opener though.Spastic muscles not only inhibit weak voluntary opposing muscles, they also take up residence in synapses and axons and make them unavailable to voluntary muscles! So get rid of the spasm, and nerves can reconnect to voluntary muscles! That goes a long way to explaining rapid improvement in my walking over the last two years – since my spasm was finally under control.

It still doesn’t explain why muscles that had no movement, have gradually become enervated, suggesting that the central nervous system can repair itself!

So never, never, never give up!

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The iPad and exercise sounds more like an oxymoron than a marriage. Yet the iPad has freed me from the chains tying me to the pc, and everyday, while I’m using the iPad I’m exercising and stretching.

Most people spend their day in flexion, hunched over their computer, slouched on a couch or just sitting around. We didn’t evolve to spend our days sitting, we evolved to STAND STRAIGHT. Sitting shortens our hip flexors and weakens our hip extensors so that when we do stand up, our posture is terrible – our shoulders are rounded, and we  lean forward from the hips with our heads thrust forward. You might not notice this when you’re 25, but you sure will notice it when you’re 55. Look around. If that’s not enough to pursuade you to stop sitting so much, think about your internal organs. They’re designed to hang inside, not be squashed up so that end up with digestive and “other problems. If you have a spinal cord injury it’s even more important to get out of flexion.

When I was sitting at the pc I had a timer beside me (given to me by a daughter who cares) so that every 20 minutes it beeped at me til I stood up and went for a walk or did some stretches. Otherwise I’d soon end up with painful spasm and find it really difficult to walk. Ok, I’ve had an incomplete spinal cord injury since 1993 and spasm has always been a problem for me, and I’ve not been able to tolerate sitting for long, but getting down on the floor is just as useful for more able bodied people, you just don’t know it til you hit your fifties and you think being stiff and sore is part of growing older.  Nuh uh … Being stiff and sore is because you spend too much time sitting  and you’ve lost your flexibility.

Muscles get used to the range in which you use them. It’s not enough to occasionally stretch, it takes weeks of regular stretching to increase muscle flexibility. And if you stop, the muscles will likely tighten up again. You have to keep stretching. If you have a spinal cord injury you have to spend more time stretching and make sure that you are using the full range of movement. Otherwise, if you’re in a wheelchair you risk contractures, and if you walk you risk shortening muscles to the point where you can no longer use them. My right hamstring shortened to the point where I could not stand on it, let alone walk. My calf muscles shortened so that I only avoided surgery by doing lots of stretches. I need to keep stretching my calves, hamstrings, hip flexors and adductors every day, three times a day, to keep mobile. And I need to stretch other muscles too.

This is how my iPad and I became good friends*. We roll around on the floor together, we lie down together, we sit crossedlegged together, we do yoga together, we do pelvic tilts together, we extend and flex our internal obliques together, we rotate our hips around my spine together … I’m still discovering exercises we can do together, but pretty much any movement I can do on the floor I can do with my iPad.

I’m writing this while I’m lying prone on the floor.  I’ve rocked my pelvis, I’ve gripped my glutes.

I’ve pretty much had a work  out with my iPad this afternoon.

I’m an advocate of living on the floor, but if  you can’t bring yourself to moving the furniture out, at least get yourself an iPad and free yourself from the chains that bind you to a chair in front of a pc. (whether you’re able bodied or have mobility restrictions). Your body will love you for it.

*My son, the computer whizz, saw my predicament.  He saw how difficult it was for me to sit at the computer. He had the answer. Using the iPad, he said,would allow me to stand at the kitchen bench, lie on the floor , be virtually anywhere and able to do pretty much anything the pc would do. It took some persuading on his part to convince me, but a big, big thanks for his persistence!

Now that he’s seen how successfull the iPad has been, he ‘s suggested the next step. There are some things I still use the pc for, mostly design and publishing. He has suggested we reconfigure the physical set up of the pc so that I can use the keyboard on the floor with a flat screen that can also be use on the floor ….

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