Physiotherapy for spinal cord injury varies depending on the location and severity of your injury.
There’s a wide spectrum of spinal cord injury classifications, so it’s important to seek a physiotherapist to set up a personal exercise plan specific to your injury.
A physiotherapist will analyze each of your physical abilities and create a rehabilitation plan customized just for you.
Types of Physiotherapy for Spinal Cord Injury
Depending on your site of injury and the extent of your paralysis, you will participate in various types of physical activity.
Here are some types of exercises you can expect to do at physiotherapy for spinal cord injury.
1. Aerobic Exercises
The heart is the hardest-working muscle in the body and aerobic exercises will help keep it healthy.
Why do we need a healthy heart? Because the heart is responsible for pumping blood throughout our bodies.
Blood is full of nutrients and oxygen that energizes our organs and keeps them functioning properly.
Weak heart performance means slowed heart rates and decreased blood pressure. Without sufficient amounts of blood circulating throughout our bodies, our major organ systems start to shut down.
Another benefit of aerobic exercise is weight regulation. If you’ve experienced weight gain due to lack of movement, aerobic exercises will help quickly burn off some extra calories.
If you’re wheelchair-dependent and need some inspiration, check out the video below for some aerobic exercise ideas.
2. Strengthening Exercises
A major outcome of spinal cord injury is reduced physical activity, which makes your muscles shrink and weaken.
Even with paralysis, it’s critical to keep your muscles in shape to facilitate mobility.
Regardless of your level of injury, strengthening exercises will help make it easier to perform everyday activities so that you can regain your independence.
For example, strong core muscles are necessary to promote sitting, standing, and walking balance while strong arm muscles can help you get around on your wheelchair.
3. Flexibility Exercises
Developing flexibility will help prevent spasticity after spinal cord injury.
Spasticity is when your muscles stay constricted, causing stiffness and spasms. Because the spinal cord injury prevents your brain and body from properly communicating, the brain can’t tell your muscles to relax.
By repetitively stretching and expanding range of movement, your muscles won’t freak out so much every time they get stimulated.
The benefits of stretching can last for hours and by regularly stretching, you’ll achieve fewer accidents and less pain.
Muscles that are well-stretched can bear more pressure and easily achieve full range of motion, which makes any action much easier to perform.
4. Activity-Based Therapy
Activity-based therapy is based on repetitively performing activities below the site of injury to promote neuromuscular plasticity.
Plasticity heavily relies on the remaining neural circuits that survived the injury and their ability to adapt.
Activity-based training requires retraining your body through task-specific activities and repetitive practice.
Both animal and human trials suggest that implementing intense, activity-based physiotherapy enhances SCI rehabilitation.
Gait training is a type of activity-based therapy that focuses on walking recovery.
This is physiotherapy that those with incomplete paraplegia will benefit most from.
Why? Because incomplete paraplegics already have full upper body movement and some sensorimotor function in their lower bodies.
Through the use of supporting equipment like walkers, crutches, parallel bars, and braces, patients can gradually learn to shift their weight and balance themselves.
Gait training may also include getting into a pool. The buoyancy of the water will help reduce the pressure of weight bearing down on your bones, joints, and muscles. This will allow you to focus on perfecting technique.
5. Structured Home Exercise Programs
You can further improve your gait with home exercise programs like Flint Rehab’s FitMi.
It helps by encouraging you to achieve high repetition of various full-body exercises, including the legs and core, which are critical for relearning how to walk after SCI.
Repetition is the essence of physiotherapy for spinal cord injury recovery, and the best home exercise programs help you with that!
The Benefits of Physiotherapy for Spinal Cord Injury
Physiotherapy for spinal cord injury helps patients recover mobility and sensation.
After SCI, many patients lose a lot of muscle density due to lack of use. Physical therapy helps rebuild their muscles to improve movement and posture.
Physical therapy can also help reduce or prevent pain following an SCI.
Being in good shape will help you recover faster and avoid dealing with spinal cord injury side effects.
As you’ve just learned, there are tons of different elements involved in physiotherapy for spinal cord injury.
Essentially, you’re training your body to function as normally as it can despite injury and trying to promote functional recovery through repetition.
There may be lots of alternative rehabilitation practices, but nothing will get you back on your feet the way physiotherapy can.
For exercise ideas, check out Spinal Cord Injury Exercises!