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The Best Leg Exercises for Spinal Cord Injury (with videos!)

leg exercises for spinal cord injury

Wondering what the best leg exercises for spinal cord injury are?

Well look no further because we have 5 super helpful videos that will teach you how to exercise all the different joints and muscles in your legs.

Why should you exercise your legs after spinal cord injury? A result of spinal cord injury is limited physical activity and when you don’t move regularly, your joints tighten up.

It a vicious cycle because once your joints start to tighten, it gets even harder to move. The best thing you can do is take preventative measures and commit to regular exercise to prevent stiffness.

Why Range of Motion Exercises Are Ideal

Range of motion leg exercises are ideal for spinal cord injury recovery because it helps make sure that you joints are being used to full capacity, reducing tightness. Discover more at!

Range of motion exercises are the easiest and most essential leg exercises for spinal cord injury.

These are exercises that ensure that you’re moving your joints to their full capacity, keeping them limber and preventing spasticity.

The best thing about range of motion exercises is that they’re low impact and can be practiced regardless of how much control you have over your legs.

Before we get into the videos, here are a couple of terms that you should familiarize yourself with:

  • Flexion: to bend your limb/joint
  • Extension: to straighten out
  • Adduction: to move in towards the center of your body
  • Abduction: to move away from the center of your body
  • Elevation: to raise
  • Depression: to lower
  • Plantar: the bottom of your foot
  • Dorsal: the upper side

Now let’s dive into the leg exercises!

Leg Exercises for Spinal Cord Injury:

1. Range of Motion

The exercises in this video include:

    • Hip: flexion/ extension, abduction/adduction, outward/inward rotation
    • Knee: flexion/ extension
    • Ankle: plantar flexion/ dorsal flexion, inward/outward rotation
    • Toes: abduction/ adduction of each toe, flexion/ extension

You can do these exercises with or without assistance depending on the stage of your recovery.

They can also be done sitting, standing, or laying down.

2. Stretching

This is a great video of stretches you can practice on your own. All you need is a belt or something you can use as a strap.

You’ll learn how you can stretch your ankles, hamstrings, gluts, and rotator joints.

Make sure you stretch slowly and gradually. Pay attention to your body and do not force anything. Only pull as much as your body will naturally let you in order to avoid further injury.

3. Straight Leg Raise

With this exercise, you’re working on developing strength.

When you practice it laying down, there’s much less pressure being placed on the leg. It helps you practice muscle movement without bearing your entire weight on the muscles.

This is a great leg exercise to help you prepare for standing up or walking.

4. Treadmill Walking Therapy

This video shows Brian, a T1 paraplegic, practicing a treadmill walking therapy.

The goal of this exercise is to train the body to recognize walking motions.

The harness helps balance you and manages how much weight you withstand.

As you can see, one person assists with each leg and another one help stabilize your back to ensure that your posture is in check.

It’s one of the main exercises that therapists offer to those with incomplete spinal cord injury because it helps motivate the patient and practice what it feels like to walk again.

5. Elliptical Walking Therapy

Here’s another video using a different machine with the same theory of developing muscle memory.

Rather than a treadmill, it works like an elliptical, providing even lower impact on your knee and ankle joints.

Helpful Tips When Beginning Your Exercises

Stretching and exercising your legs is absolutely necessary for recovering from spinal cord injury. It helps keep your body strong and prevents spasticity. Find out more about leg exercises for spinal cord injury at!

You’ll notice that all these exercises practice the same movements, just at different levels of difficulty.

Take each exercise as a suggestion and adjust it to match your abilities.

To get more out of each exercise, play with different angles and gradually increase how many sets or reps you practice.

Want more? Check out our article on core exercises for spinal cord injury to learn how building a strong core will benefit your recovery.

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