Getting rid of that Leaned over Humped Back Stance
Hi there, this is Shirley and I’m back to talk with you about exercise today. Since I’m in a wheelchair a lot of the time, I find that getting any kind of exercise is pretty difficult.
But I do try to get some in. I especially enjoy water aerobic when I can find a pool open. With the deteriorating discs in my lower back, I can only walk a few steps before I begin to feel a tremendous pressure in my low back area. If I keep walking, it turns into pain and sciatica down my legs. I have to find a place to sit or at least lean against and bend over to relieve the pressure for a minute. I’ll use my cane if I don’t have to walk too far and that helps a little.
However, I’ve found that since I sit so much, either in my wheelchair or a desk chair at the computer, when I try to stand up, I can’t seem to straighten out and I walk like a little old lady, all bent over.
I was reading last night in a great ebook called “Wheelchair Freedom – Get Help, Get Up, Get Out” by Marcia Oliver. She is a physical Therapist and has lots of experience working with wheelchair patients. There is a part of her book that deals with the “bent over” problem when standing. She says its because I’m sitting all the time, that certain muscles and tendons have shortened and therefore when I do get out of my chair and stand up, these muscles can’t lengthen enough, so I have a bent over posture.
She gives some suggestions on exercises that can help lengthen those muscles again so I will not have to bend over when I stand.
She says I must try slow, steady stretching of my Quads, Hamstrings, Glutes and Heel Cords – the muscles in our legs and bottom. She states that as we age, we are much less active and sit more, causing weak hips, low back and legs.
What muscles are we dealing with?
Our Quads are located in the front of our thighs. Our hamstrings are on the back of our thighs with our glutes being the sitting down muscles. Our heel cords and calf muscles are located on the back of our lower legs. These are the muscles that shorten when we sit most of the time.
Last night I began to do some of the stretches she recommends to lengthen my muscles again. I found out that when I lay on the floor on my back, I really can’t put the back of my calves down to touch the floor anymore. It was a real shock to me. I could certainly tell that those muscles were not the same as they used to be when I walked more.
Marcia says repeatedly that its better to stretch before trying to strengthen so we can sustain that new range of motion. She says I can begin working in a recliner, relaxing with it laid back, keeping my legs stretched and calves on the chair. I should have a gentle stretch on both the front and back of my thighs.
When I can do that easily, then I should try laying on my back on my bed, stretching out so my entire back and calves touch the bed.
I can add to this by dropping one leg (the one next to the edge of the bed, down off the bed and touch the floor to further stretch those quads out. This should be done slowly and steadily.
The next exercise I did was to sit on the front edge of the chair and put my heel out straight on one leg and lean over stretching that leg. And to make this more difficult, I can put a belt or strap under the ball of my foot and pull the foot up toward my head. This will really work on stretching the hamstrings in the back of the leg. All very slowly and steadily. I did this on both legs.
The next exercise is to stretch the heel cords by putting a thick book on the floor or by using a step. Place the front of your foot on the step (the pad) or thick book and let the heel drop over the step or book to really stretch out those heel cords. Do this with both feet.
A standing stretch was to face a wall, lean into it and put one leg back, keeping the foot flat and stretching toward the wall to provide a gentle stretch in the heel cord and gastroc muscles in the ankle. Hold for 15-30 seconds working up until you can do this for a couple of minutes. This will definitely help with our balance also.
There are several other exercises she has that are done in your wheelchair, using your legs and feet and twisting from side to side to stretch the hips and side muscles. Also by raising your clasped hands and arms over your head, you can stretch those muscles out.
After I had finished all of Marcia’s stretches I decided to do some Yoga stretches from a book called “Chair Yoga for Seniors – A Gentle Sequence to get you started” by Nancy Coffin. This was very relaxing and I was able to work on my flexibility and range of motion again.
By the time I had finished all these stretches and exercises, it had been about an hour and I felt pretty good. I’m going to try to do this every evening now and hopefully in a few weeks I will be able to stand straight again.
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