Best Stretching Exercises For Wheelchair Users

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Almost 1.5 million people in the United States use a manual wheelchair, and most users are over the age of 65. This happens from various diseases.

Life in a wheelchair isn’t easy, but you have to be strong and continue living it. And for that, we have many Olympics that live their lives in a wheelchair.

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Due to the increased work demand of the shoulders and arms, wheelchair users often have shoulder pain and dysfunction. So, upper body resistance exercises are an excellent way to build strength and improve movements.

Strengthening exercises, combined with other treatments, can decrease pain and improve the quality of life for every wheelchair user.

1. Shoulder Openers

Image Credits: Shoulder Openers

This activity provides a great stretch to the shoulder and chest muscles. It helps maintain mobility in the shoulders and upper extremities leading to decreased injuries and pain.

Equipment needed: broomstick or dowel

Muscles worked: rotator cuff muscles, pectoralis major, pectoralis minor, deltoids

– Remove armrests from the wheelchair if possible.
– Sit comfortably and hold a broomstick in your hands in a wide grip, about 6 inches wider than your shoulders.
– Raise the dowel up above your head, keeping your arms straight.
– Adjust your grip if necessary and continue behind your head until you feel a stretch.
– Hold for 5 seconds, return to starting position, and complete 10 reps.
– Repeat once a day.

2. Lat Pull Downs

Image Credits: Lat Pull Downs

This exercise strengthens the muscles of the mid back, upper arms, and core. The latissimus dorsi, the large muscles that run along the side of the back, are responsible for many of the movements we do everyday like pulling and pushing.

Equipment needed: resistance band with handles, anchor point (bar or hook 3 to 4 feet above head)

Muscles worked: latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, trapezius

– Remove armrests from wheelchair if possible.
– Sit underneath and slightly in front of the resistance band, hanging from the bar.
– Sit up tall and engage your core by pulling your bellybutton toward your spine.
– Holding the handles in each hand, pull your hands toward you, keeping elbows wide.
– At the end of the movement, bring your elbows towards your body as if you are trying to tuck them into your back pockets. Squeeze your back muscles for a second, then return to starting position.
– Complete 15 reps. Rest 1 minute. Complete 3 sets.
– Repeat once a day.

3. Reverse Fly

Image Credits: Reverse Fly

The rear deltoid muscles run along the back of the shoulder and are necessary for shoulder stability and movement during pulling and lifting activities.

Equipment needed: resistance band

Muscles worked: posterior deltoids, rhomboids, trapezius

– Loop a resistance band around a pole or sturdy object in front of you at shoulder level.
– Hold the band securely in each hand and raise your arms out in front of you to shoulder level.
– Move your arms straight out to the side, focusing on sitting up tall and keeping your shoulders down and back. – -Squeeze the area between your shoulder blades on the end of the movement.
– Adjust length of the band to increase or decrease tension if necessary.
– Complete 15 repetitions. Rest 1 minute. Repeat 3 times.
– Repeat once a day.

4. Hand Cycling

Image Credits: Hand Cycling

This exercise is not only great for the arms and shoulders, but as a cardiovascular exercise which benefits heart health and overall well-being.

Equipment needed: hand ergometer (hand bicycle)

Muscles worked: rotator cuff muscles, deltoids, rhomboids, latissimus dorsi, pectoralis major and minor

– Position yourself in front of the hand cycle at a comfortable distance.
– Set tension on cycle, start off easy, and increase tension as you get stronger.
– Move the pedals in a forward motion with your hands.
– Continue for 5 to 30 minutes.
– Pause activity if you are feeling any pain or become out of breath.
– Repeat once a day.

Image Credits: Stellartransport

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