Hesperian Health Guides

Keeping Active

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HealthWiki > Disabled Village Children > Chapter 23: Spinal Cord Injury > Keeping Active


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Many of the ‘complications’ of spinal cord injury happen because the person spends a lot of time just lying and sitting. To keep healthy, the body needs to keep active. Lack of movement and activity causes poor flow of the blood. This can lead to pressure sores, swollen feet, painful or dangerous blood clots (thrombosis) especially in the legs, increasing weakness of bones (osteoporosis) with risk of breaking them, stones in the bladder or kidneys, increased risk of urinary infections, and general physical weakness and poor health.

It is important—both for the body and mind—that spinal cord injured persons keep physically active. Let your child do as much for herself as she can: pushing her own wheelchair, bathing, transferring, washing clothes, cleaning house, and helping with work.
child in a wheelchair hoes a garden


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Active games and sports can also be encouraged. Swimming, basketball, and archery can be done well with upper body use only. Quadriplegics can become skillful with bow and arrow by using a straight-arm splint and a special hook, fastened to the hand, to pull the string.
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Note: Archery may also help correct spinal curve. The arm that pulls the string should be on the side with bulge in the back.



To keep leg bones growing well and to prevent them from becoming weak and breaking easily, even children who may always be wheelchair riders should stand for a while every day. Standing also helps the child’s bowels move more often.

child strapped to a standing board
This can be done by strapping the child to a ’standing board’, or by making some kind of a standing frame.
child using a standing frame
This standing frame was invented by a paraplegic youth and his father. The boy uses the spasticity in his legs to stand. When the muscles tire he hangs and sits on the padded poles.
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This design for a standing wheel-bed allows a spinal cord injured child with pressure sores on her butt to actively move about. The child can adjust it while on it, from a flat-lying position to a near - standing position. It can be made out of wood or metal.
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Spinal cord injured persons as leaders

Spinal cord injured persons in various countries are now taking the lead in making new lives for themselves and in getting their communities to recognize their abilities. Examples of 2 programs run primarily by spinal cord injured persons are included in Chapter 55. These are the Organization of Disabled Revolutionaries in Nicaragua and the Centre for the Rehabilitation of the Paralysed in Bangladesh. Members of these and many similar organizations would be happy to share ideas and suggestions with any group of disabled persons interested in organizing their own program or shop.



This page was updated:19 Jan 2018