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Exercise & Spinal Cord Injury

Updated: Oct 26, 2021

Spinal cord injuries are a major condition that we see within our rehab gym, possibly because we have one of the only fully accessible gyms in the country!

Bay of Plenty is also an area where are a large number of injuries occur due to our adventure and active lifestyle, recent reports suggest anywhere from 100 to 200 new spinal cord injuries per year.

Exercise post spinal cord injury is crucial to the rehabilitation process, and Tauranga is fortunate enough to have a NextStep within the city that can provide the latest in Activity Based Therapy, with research straight out of the American universities specifically aimed at recovering function after injury.

Not only does this exercise therapy assist recovering function but it also a great way to remain active, healthy and positive.

What happens to your movement after a spinal cord injury?

There a number of different ways that damage can occur to a spinal cord both traumatic and medical but often the damage affects movement through paralysis.

Depending on your level of injury depends how many limbs and body functions are affected. Inflammation in the spinal cord area blocks and damages the cord decreases the amount of signals that can get through for conscious motor control often increasing the need for assistive devices.

How can exercise help?

Neuroplasticity is the key word in regard to exercise and spinal cord injury rehab. Neuroplasticity is the ability of the neural networks in the brain to change via growth and re-organization. i.e., the ability to build new roads and “re-route” to re-learn various functions. Through specific ABT exercises we encourage this rebuilding process.

Activity-Based Therapy (ABT) is a therapeutic activity used in recovery and rehabilitation to improve strength and regain motor function after a traumatic injury or neurological condition.

Guided activity-based sessions consist of 1 on 1 or 2 on 1 with a certified activity-based therapy specialist. Our trainers love to get creative and think outside the box to provide your body the best possible chances of recovery.

Not only is this process physically challenging but the mental health benefits are numerous. There are exercises that you might have never thought possible until our trainers expose you to some different activities and processes and this can help increase your motivation and positive outlook. The rehab gym at NextStep is also full of other people all going through a similar process to you and this shared camaraderie is totally unique and exciting to behold.

Helpful Tips - from a couple of the team!

- Even though you might not feel an area of your body or have control of it anymore, make sure to use it, put it in a position to be used because it is still there and it still needs blood flow and circulation just like the rest of your body! Aaron

- Make sure to find the time to stand, standing has numerous benefits and can be done active and passive. Brennan

- If you don't know something, ask! Someone else has been through what your going through before and most people are more than happy to share their experience. Brett

Some advice from Casey

Casey has been a long term member of NextStep since suffering a spinal cord injury from a motor cross accident.

She is the epitome of the ideal client, self motivated, driven and a willingness to push hard and try new things. We asked Casey for some quick advice about her exercise experience.

What has your injury taught you?

Casey says that post injury it has changed her perspective on life. Without her injury she believes she might not have experienced the world of people with mobility issues and the challenges they face on a day to day basis, and this inspires her to help others even though she faces similar challenges.

What role has exercise played in your recovery?

Exercise is essential to my recovery, without my team of trainers I wouldn't be able to do what I feel I need to do to help me toward my goals. Being active helps me feel more alive and like I am achieving something. I am very lucky that I have a place like NextStep on my doorstep that I can go to every day and not have any issues accessing the equipment or feel out of place.

What is one piece of advice that you would give to a newly injured person?

I would say don't give up, search out people who are going to support your goals and go hard at it, don't let people tell you it can't be done if you believe it can. Its going to be hard work but with the right team it can be the best thing you have ever done!

More Information:

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Mount Maunganui | Tauranga Based Team 👉

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