Request from Nurse Linda: What you are doing to exercise and how you have worked exercise into your schedule? If you have any ideas, feel free to post. You might be doing something that you feel is pretty average but it might be something that others have not yet thought. Post in the comments below!
Many people accept the concept that once you have a spinal cord injury, recovery is not possible. This is simply not true. Recovery is possible now and in the forefront. Healthcare professionals were taught, until recently, that recovery from paralysis would not occur but it does and always has. Traditionally, research assessing recovery was measured over a two year period. Individuals were not provided with therapy other than for maintenance and recovery was measured. Without any stimulation, nothing occurred so it was deemed that it would not.
Just within a short period of time, the above information has been demonstrated to be incorrect. Recovery does occur and can be stimulated to occur in a very positive direction. Consequences from spinal cord injury, stroke or other nerve injury leading to paralysis can be reduced and improved with functional gains being made. There are several strategies that can enhance your recovery process.
Prevention of complications from paralysis is going to be the primary concern for treatment. Making sure that your body stays healthy without muscle contractures, pressure sores, infections and clots
will be important to keep you moving forward. All body systems such as your respiratory
must remain healthy so you can move forward and not be trying to catch up after illness. You can do a lot to prevent secondary complications
by monitoring your skin, turning and performing pressure releases. Maintaining hygiene in bowel and bladder training as well as coughing and breathing deeply will help you to keep your body in shape. Work pressure releases and deep breathing into your day in a timely fashion by performing them to some sort of ritual such as at TV commercials, or some other cue in your life that happens every 10-15 minutes. It then becomes an automatic part of your day rather than a chore.
Activity is an integral part of the recovery process. Moving your body frequently is important to provide input to the nerves and muscles below the level of injury. Providing range of motion exercises and stretching is the perfect opportunity to provide input to your body. Gentle moving in your wheelchair is also important to your total body.
Movement in the form of range of motion and stretching repeatedly is patterned movement. Years ago, in the polio epidemic, patterned movement was discovered to be a source of improvement for individuals with paralysis from polio. Today, it is noted to be a factor in providing stimulation from an external source to be able to keep joints supple and muscles strong. Providing this input through moving your limbs at a minimum of two times a day is a good start. You may do this yourself or have someone help you. Just as a person stretches when they wake and prior to sleep is providing your body with stimulation as well as avoiding the complications of paralysis.
Electrical stimulation to provide patterned movement is taking exercise to another level. In this case, the stimulation is provided from an outside source to cause movement to muscles to contract and release as well as stimulating nerves to send impulses to the brain. Thinking about moving a body part while having the input electrical stimulation has been known to make connections at the level of injury to increase the process of recovery. The nerves may reconnect or other nerves may take over to allow the desired movement.
Brain remapping is what is done when new nerve routes are stimulated by patterned movement or electrical stimulation. The brain can use other connections to take over for nerves that are not working up to full steam. The nervous system is much like a computer in that there are typically alternative ways to perform any one function. The nervous system is much the same as the brain will adapt to send messages past the level of injury if it is provided with an alternative route. Sometimes, it may take a while to learn the new signaling path and how to harness it but this can be done through therapeutic intervention.
Patterned movement and electrical stimulation will cause an increase in the development of new nerve cells. The nervous system creates new nerve cells throughout your life. The exact mechanism of this process is under study but great strides are being made in understanding the way this works. One thing that is known is that regardless of how the new nerve cells develop, they do so with increased movement. It would be great to know exactly how this happens so it could be harnessed and stimulated but even without knowing the how, we do know it does work.
Investigative research about nerve transfers and grafting, stem cell research, implants, medications, prostheses, halting cell death, inflammation promoting nerve regeneration are all understudy. How to reduce the secondary complications and effects of paralysis is being understood more clearly. Yes, there is more research to be done but what we do know should be used now. That being movement helps bodies function.
Movement has been demonstrated to be helpful in other neurologic illness such as Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease. Individuals with these conditions do much better cognitively or with their thinking when movement is provided. Therefore, we know that movement is a favorite of the neurological system. We also know that individuals in general have better function and quality of life with movement. If movement results in a cardiac workout, other body systems remain healthy.
Exercise is a difficult goal to accomplish in anyone's life. People buy gym memberships but fail to attend. Many New Year's resolutions are quickly broken because, let's face it, exercise is not always fun. It is a challenge to be able to accomplish the goal of exercise on a regular basis. The key might be to make it a normal process in your day as opposed to an onus. Ranging and stretching should be worked into your routine. If you can find an exercise that is entertaining to you, a person is more likely to stick with it. Rolling out doors in good weather might be a time to get exercise but also to clear your mind and relax. If swimming is possible and enjoyable, that is another possibility. Many communities offer warm water pools with adaptive opportunities. Some people roll through different stores to see what is new. Therapy can offer exercise.
What you are doing to exercise and how you have worked exercise into your schedule? If you have any ideas, feel free to post.
You might be doing something that you feel is pretty average but it might be something that others have not yet thought.
Thank you for your ideas.
I'm online in this community every Wednesday from 8-9 PM ET to answer your SCI and paralysis related questions.
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