alt=a woman helps a man in a motorized wheelchair with stretching his legs

The Importance of Stretching

Beginning in my early 30’s, SMA started to take away a lot of my strength. As a result, I began sitting more and more. I mostly used my scooter up until last year. 

Since then I started using a manual wheelchair more often while in my home. I have found it more comfortable to sit at a desk and a table.

When I was on the scooter, I would have to twist my back to type on the computer or eat at the table. This caused lower back pain and would get uncomfortable after a while.

Tightness and pain from my wheelchair

A fear I have had since relying on my wheelchair more often has been contractures. I am unable to stretch myself.

Over the course of the last 10+ years, I have noticed my leg muscles getting tight and stiff. The tightness caused additional pain.

I would have my parents assist me a few times a week with stretching. I also had a massage therapist for about 15 years. I’d see her 2x a month and she would incorporate stretching into my massage. I found this very beneficial.

Starting to stretch regularly

When I started dating Suzanne, she really spent a lot of time helping me stretch. She is a certified yoga instructor.

I always knew about the benefits of stretching on a regular basis. However, being able to practice regular stretching has made an immense difference in how I feel.

Years ago, I remember a physical therapist telling me we are never too old to begin stretching. Many of us with SMA will never be able to hold yoga poses or become very flexible.

My old physical therapist said everyone can benefit from stretching. Obviously, if this is something you’ve never done before, I encourage you to talk to a physical therapist or your Dr. before beginning.

I start every morning with stretching. We typically spend around 25-30 minutes stretching. On the mornings where we are pressed for time, we have a quick routine that takes less than 10.

On days where we don’t have anything planned we’ll spend up to an hour stretching. I need Suzanne’s assistance to move my arms and legs into a position where I can feel a stretch. 

Increased flexibility and feel better overall

Once she gets me into a stretch she holds it for 10-15 seconds. We do all sorts of positions and holds. Over the course of the last year and a half, I have definitely improved my flexibility.

Beyond the increased flexibility I feel better overall. I’m able to tolerate sitting for longer periods of time. 

I have noticed my hands and feet don’t get as cold as fast. So I’m assuming there is better circulation within my body.

I would imagine some of you feel the frustration that I have felt when it comes to not exercising and moving our bodies the way we want. However, if you have a willing PCA or loved one who could assist you with stretching, that’s great.

Please talk to your doctor or physical therapist before starting. They’ll be able to give you advice so you don’t hurt yourself.

Does anyone incorporate routine stretching within your daily life’s? How does it help you?

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