Do you find it difficult to sit for extended periods of time since your spinal cord injury? For patients after a spinal cord injury, practicing sitting balance exercises can help!
Sitting balance refers to one’s ability to sit upright. Most people don’t even really think about it because it’s a skill learned so early in life. Unfortunately, after cervical or thoracic spinal cord injury, maintaining sitting balance often becomes difficult due to weakened or lost control over the core muscles.
This article will share some effective sitting balance exercises after spinal cord injury that can help strengthen your core, increase body awareness, and improve posture.
Sitting Balance Exercises for Spinal Cord Injury Patients
We suggest practicing these sitting balance exercises in front of a mirror so you can see the way your body moves and self-correct.
Make sure to sit on a firm surface. Sitting on a cushy surface like a sofa or bed will make it more difficult to stay balanced.
Below, we’ll go over 5 sitting balance exercises that can help engaged your core and improve stability.
1. Trunk Tilts
For this first exercise, you’re going to tilt your trunk in various directions, hold the position for 3 seconds, and then return to your starting position.
You can tilt your trunk forward, backward, to the side, or diagonally.
This sitting balance exercise will help you figure out how to shift your weight without falling over.
Make sure that your trunk is actually moving towards the direction you want, not just your neck.
You can do this exercise on your own or with a friend.
If you’re doing it on your own, place some stickers on the wall in various directions (high, low, to the right, to the left, etc.). These are going to be your targets.
Number the stickers so that you remember the order. Try not to place consecutive numbers next to each other.
The further apart the stickers are, the more challenging it will be to stay balanced as you reach for them.
Try to tap the targets with your right hand, then with your left hand, and then with both hands (one placed on top of the other).
If you’re doing this exercise with a friend, have them move around you with their hand out. The goal is for you to give them a high-five back.
This exercise is a little bit more dynamic when you’re doing it with another person because they can get you to reach to your side, behind you, or over your head.
3. Seated Marches
It may seem unlikely, but the lower body also plays an important role in sitting balance.
The muscles in your lower body help stabilize the trunk and pelvis.
Sit with your feet flat on the floor and alternate lifting your knees as high as you can without leaning backward.
To make this exercise more challenging, take your arms off the armrest and cross them across your chest. This will reduce stability and force your core to work harder to stay balanced.
Seated marching is 1 of 40 exercises included in the FitMi home therapy program. These exercises are designed by physical therapists to help people with paralysis regain their balance and mobility in a fun, engaging way.
4. Pelvic Tilts
This simple exercise will help improve pelvis mobility while seated by strengthening the pelvic floor and lower abdominal muscles.
It will help you practice sitting in a pelvic-neutral position, which is key for promoting proper sitting posture and reducing lower back strain.
When tilting your pelvis forward, you should feel your abdominal muscle contracting.
When tilting your pelvis backward, the curve in your lower back should feel more prominent.
5. Seated Pushups
Sit in a wheelchair with the brakes locked, or on any chair with armrests.
You’re going to use your arms to lift your body up by placing your hands on the armrest and pushing down while your elbows straighten.
Your feet should always stay on the ground for support.
Gently, bend your elbows to get back into a seated position.
The point of this exercise is to practice stabilizing yourself when you get back into your seat.
Improving Sitting Balance
Posture is key to developing good sitting balance.
Poor sitting posture will place unnecessary stress on the musculoskeletal system and contribute to future neck, shoulder, and back pain.
Try to be mindful of your posture throughout the day by making sure that your shoulders are relaxed, back is straight, and that your weight is evenly distributed between both feet.
Small adjustments can make all the difference!
Improving sitting balance after spinal cord injury isn’t going to happen overnight, but with enough practice, the central nervous system can be retrained to recover weakened functions.