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The Benefits of Safe, Power Wheelchair Stretching

September 10, 2012
It's a fact of life: If we don't stretch or work our muscles, they are likely to shorten, tighten and become less flexible.

Users of manual or power wheelchairs who sit for long periods throughout the day may experience pronounced joint stiffness and decreased range of motion, potentially making it more difficult to put on a pair of shoes, or perform other essential tasks.
                                                                                                                 
But, according to the Mayo Clinic,1 mild wheelchair exercise and light stretching can help improve muscle flexibility and make it easier for joints to move through a fuller range of motion. Additional health benefits from seated power chair stretches may also include:
  • Reduction in neck, shoulder and lower back discomfort
  • Increased blood flow to muscles Improved quality of sleep
  • Enhanced sense of well-being and stress-relief                          
  • Delay or prevention of muscle atrophy

However, necessary precautions should always be taken before beginning any exercise or physical movement program. This is especially true for anyone who has limited mobility and/or ongoing medical conditions. Some guidelines for safer stretching while seated in a power wheelchair are offered below.
  • First, talk with your doctor A doctor or physical therapist will be able to evaluate your physical capabilities and offer professional guidance on suitable stretches for your specific mobility limitations.2
  • Be careful and take it easy Beginners are advised to start slowly, follow their doctor's advice and to be careful at all times. For example, powered wheelchair brakes should be locked with the power turned off while exercising or stretching.
  • Never bounce into a stretch Bouncing (or, rocking back and forth while stretching) might injure delicate muscles. It is best to focus on breathing and to stretch slowly, without forcing any movements.

Senior fitness experts suggest stretching on a regular basis for maximum benefit. Each stretch should be held for no more than 15 or 20 seconds, depending on the individual's ability and a doctor's advice. Read about a few practical suggestions in a companion article on stretching.

For more information on moving freely and staying independent all day long, contact Hoveround. Our "uniquely round" power chairs, compact mobility scooters, personal lifts and assorted accessories can help make your daily activities easier to perform with less discomfort and less assistance from others. Call Hoveround today.

1Stretching: Focus on Flexibility Mayo Clinic Staff. Accessed online, July 2012

2 Upon a doctor’s approval, proceed only according to medical instructions. Contact your doctor for additional guidance as needed.

This article is for informational purposes only and not as a substitute for professional medical advice. All information is general in nature and may not necessarily apply to every one and every situation.

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