When you injure your spinal cord, your body’s natural alignment gets disrupted. The best way to adjust to this instability is to practice balance exercises for spinal cord injury.
Did you know that spinal cord injury patients are more likely to fall due to poor balance?
Don’t worry! We’ve prepared 5 exercises perfect for restoring your sense of balance. Let’s get started!
Balance Exercises for Spinal Cord Injury
Even the simplest activities can help extend your range of balance. Continuous practice of balance exercises for spinal cord injury will stimulate recognition in your brain and get you one step closer to standing or walking on your own.
These exercises are designed to be helpful at any stage of your recovery so adjust them to suit your abilities.
1. Standing Exercises Using a Walker
Using a walker or parallel bars for support, you should practice swaying front and back, side to side, or even in circles. This will help develop a standing balance.
Make sure that you’re making these movements with your hips.
At first, you’ll rely more on your arms to maintain balance or hold yourself up. Even though this may help you stay up, you want to gradually place more emphasis on your hips to facilitate movement to train the area below your spinal cord injury.
If you rely too much on your arms, you won’t be developing the muscle memory necessary to stand without the assistance of a walker.
2. Standing in Various Stances
Using a rail or chair to help stabilize you, try to stand and maintain your position.
When you feel stable, let go of whatever you’re using as support and try to sustain balance on your own.
Switch up the distance between your legs and the direction your legs face to develop a better range. The wider your stance, the more stable you will be.
Practicing this exercise will teach you how to balance on your own rather than depending on another object to keep you up.
If you’re unable to stand, work on maintaining an upright sitting position and holding it for several seconds without leaning against the back of a wheelchair or wall.
3. Proper Posture
Proper posture is essential for good balance so remember to face forward, keep your shoulders level, and have your weight evenly distributed on both feet.
When you sit or stand straight, you’re not straining any muscles or connective tissues with unnecessary weight.
All your organs can function efficiently and you’re preventing any stiffness that can result from staying in an unnatural position for too long.
Good posture allows for easier and deeper breathing with results in improved brain activity.
Maintaining proper posture can be difficult and uncomfortable for some as they’ve gotten used to sitting or standing a certain way. Although it may not be problematic at the moment, poor posture will eventually lead to back and neck pain.
4. Aquatic Activity
Go to the pool and take advantage of buoyancy (the force of water pushing you up). This is what makes you feel so much lighter in the water.
It’s easy to develop a sense of balance in water because you don’t have to deal with so much weight holding you down.
You can practice standing or walking techniques with the security of knowing you won’t fall hard onto the ground.
Practice walking in a straight line as if you’re on a tightrope to develop stability and coordination. You’ll notice that walking this way will make you practice hip movements.
Repetition of movements in a pool will make it easier to practice them on land.
5. Trunk Exercises
A strong core is essential for maintaining balance. Your core muscles help support your spinal cord and when they’re weak, there’s more pressure on your other muscles and joints, which causes back pain.
You’re going to want to regularly stretch your core muscles and use some sort of resistance to build strength.
It’s important to train all sides of your trunk to maximize stability. This means not just focusing on your abs, but also your obliques and back.
Consider teaching yourself how to sit on a stability ball. It forces you to practice balance with micro movements and you’re constantly engaging your core muscles to maintain your center of gravity.
Stability ball exercises can range from just sitting on the ball and lightly bouncing to move active exercises like crunches.
Just remember to be mindful of your posture to avoid back pain and discomfort.
Refer to our article on core exercises for spinal cord injury for more tips and videos on building core strength.
Indicators of Improvement
It’s hard to notice how much you’re improving if you don’t know what to look out for. Recovery occurs gradually in small steps so be proud of your progress. Here are some indicators of improvement to take notice of when doing balance exercises for spinal cord injury:
- Time: how long you can maintain balance in a particular position
- Range: the different positions you can maintain balance in
- Ease: the level of difficulty you experience to maintain balance
Your balance will improve with consistency so just be patient and enjoy the process.