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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 improve range of motion and stengthen your legs!

Why should you exercise your legs after spinal cord injury? After spinal cord injury, many patients tend to drastically reduce physical activity. When you don’t move regularly, circulation decreases and your joints tighten up.

It’s 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 leg exercises ensure that you’re moving your joints to their full capacity, which keeps them limber and prevents 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 get into the leg exercises!

Leg Exercises for Spinal Cord Injury

Check out these videos for effective leg exercises for spinal cord injury patients:

1. Range of Motion

The legs 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 practice these exercises with or without assistance depending on how much motor control you have.

They can also be performed 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 similar to use as a strap.

You’ll learn how to stretch your ankles, hamstrings, glutes, 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

This leg exercise works on developing strength.

When you practice it laying down, there’s much less pressure being placed on the leg. It helps you practice making a step without bearing weight.

This is a great leg exercise to help you prepare for standing 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 support his weight and promotes balance.

As you can see, one person assists with each leg and another helps stabilize your back.

This leg exercise helps motivate the patient by allowing them to get a feel for walking again.

5. Elliptical Walking Therapy

This leg exercise utilizes an elliptical to promote gait development.

Using an elliptical has low impact on your knees and ankles, which helps reduce joint strain.

Adjusting Leg Exercises for Spinal Cord Injury

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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