Flexibility Training Guidelines
- Flexibility training is important to maintain range of motion in joints, as well as to prevent shoulder injuries in persons who use wheelchairs or crutches.
- Flexibility training also helps to prevent contractures (permanently shortened muscles). Paralyzed muscles should be stretched by a physical therapist, exercise specialist, or by a trained assistant or family member. Muscles that need to be stretched include the hamstrings (the back of the thigh), adductors (inner thigh), muscles that flex the hip, muscles that flex the foot, and muscles that extend the back. Having the individual lie on his/her stomach for rest periods can also help stretch muscles of the hips and back of the thighs.
- Stretches for the muscles of the chest and front of the shoulder are recommended especially for wheelchair users, who tend to have a crouched posture.
- Stretch the shoulders by grasping the elbow with the arm overhead, and pulling back to stretch gently. You can also stretch the front of the shoulder by placing your hand on a wall, fingers pointed backwards with the arm outstretched, and lean forward towards the wall. Hold for one minute each side.
- Stretching the calf muscles helps to decrease swelling, especially if combined with leg massages.
- Types of flexibility training are passive resistance, Thera-band® elastic bands or tubings, standing in a standing frame (if not medically contraindicated), yoga and Pilates.