My Physical Therapy Routine

Its Gotta Be Habitual

Where Habits Form In The Brain

Early on I was told that physical therapy was the primary way for me to recover. Recovery could mean 70%-80% mobility . . . likely walking with a cane. BUT, I should plan on at least 6 months of daily PT for an hour. Well, it took about 9 months until I finally got with the “daily” thing. Now, I could not live without it, but don’t think of this as a guarantee. 6-9 months could become 12-18 months or longer. It finally became habitual. 

Share Your PT Exercixes

Build Upper Body Strength

Realize that arm strength means just about everything at the beginning. Can’t transfer to chairs; can’t transfer in and out of bed; can’t get on/off the commode; and, can’t get in and out of the car. So get working. I started with rubber therabands everyday for just 15 minutes. It’s amazing what can develop.

Transfer Carefully

Sliding Boards Help Body Transfers

PT starts with transfers, usually aided by a smooth maple or oak board. It fits under your butt then reaches to your destination, and you slide along the board. However, I preferred to build the arm strength so I could essentially hop from point A to point B. Caution – transferring upward is far more difficult than downward. Be careful. Go slow. You will likely end up on your butt occasionally. I did.

Work Your Ankles

New Ankle Surgery at UT Southwestern

After nearly 2 years, my ankles still show little flexibility. I’ve started wrapping a theraband around the ball of my foot, one at a time, pulling back 10 times, then switching to the other foot. Now I’m doing three reps of 10 for each. I believe it helping.

Clutch Your Butt Cheeks

This a a funny one, sort of. Squeeze your cheeks together as hard as you can, count to 5, and release. Do 15 reps twice. Here’s the catch . . . TM eliminates your ability to feel your bowels squeezing or pushing.  I’ve certainly had my share of bowel misfunctions. Oh, well. Do your work on a padded plastic sheet. They’re available at any home medical supply.

Work Your Knees

If you cannot lock your knees, you cannot walk. Laying flat, re-develop knee strength with vertical heel slides. Or, set in a chair with your feet flat on the floor, then pick your calves straight upward as far as you can. Try two sets of 15 reps. Use a yard stick to measure the lift height. I’m still working toward 12.”

Wake Up Your Legs

Here I combine two exercises. Using the theraband I can hold up my knee an press my heel into the bed 15 times slowly. Helps your Hamstrings - you should feel muscles tighten along the back of your thigh. 

Then, still holding the knee, I can then lift my prone leg straight up as high as possible. I do 15 and 5 then 15 and 5 then 15 and 10. Then I repeat the process with the other leg.

Help Your Hips

Horizontal heel slides work well to stretch out and strengthen our hips. Try not to lift your knee during the movement. Put feet together then move the right leg out horizontally as far as you can and bring it back to center. At first, don not stop between each pass. Keeping moving and let the momentum help you. As it becomes easier, you may want to add socks for some additional resistance.

Make Your Core King

Like most guys, I’ve paid little attention to my mid-section. Big mistake. My core muscles seem attached to everything below my waist. They also help determine balance. I use three exercises. ½ sit-ups with my arms outstretched in front of me; wrapping a theraband around the balls of both feet, I do sit backs nearly to the bed then back up; and the m ost agonizing of all . . . bridges with a bolster.

Use Bolsters

You can spend a lot of money on padded bolsters designed for physical therapy. I took a 6” Styrofoam tube and wrapped it with an old yoga mat for softness.  Resting your knees across, lift first your right foot 10 times then switch to your left and repeat. Do 3 sets of 10 reps each. Then, with the push from both knees, I also do 3 sets pf 10 bridges. PT healthcare on the cheap.


Push Your Arms

Kelly introduced my to these hand devices. I think I got them from, Amazon for about $13.00. I sit at the edge of my bed, feet on the ground, hand lifts on either side of me. I push up fully on both arms, count to 5 then down again. First, I do this 15 times. On the next 10, I also attempt to pull my legs up straight in front of me.

Get Your Dopamine Kick

Habits form in the Striatum part of your brain. Once you’ve done an activity often enough, it will become a reflex, and it reduces the need to think about it. This also releases your body’s own pleasure drug, Dopamine. This please-seeking chemical is your immediate reward for your efforts, not to mention muscle strength improvement, and co-ordination among your brain commands, your nerves carrying the messages to your muscles, and your muscles acting out the way you desire.

Be A Clam Shell

This is one of my last laying down exercises and it feels great. Bend your knees, put your feet together. Let your knees fall out to the side until you feel a wonderful stretch across your groin. Try to repeat 5-10 times.

Work Your Quads

This is the first of two sitting exercises I do - usually while I'm sitting on the commode every morning. Sit upright in a chair, straighten your leg, tighten your thigh and pull your toes back. Start with 5-10 times on each leg.

More Hip Work

My second sitting exercise. Much harder than it looks. Sitting straight up, lift up your right knee as high as you can, put it down then do your left knee. That's one set. Do 10.

Wes Adds Five Tips

Wes is a fitness enthusiast who doesn't let his spinal cord injury keep him from hitting the gym. He's put together five tips to help kickstart your fitness, regardless of your ability:

Elysia Works on her Knees

Hello! I am a transverse myelitis survivor - I am no longer in a wheel chair. I must say, the best exercise I to help me with my hypertension was using something that I could grip hold of while standing. The key was to squeeze my knee muscles several times a day. If I was in bed I would do the same. This exercise built my knee muscles. 


The second thing I worked on was while squeezing my knee muscles, I would try to stand on tippy toes as if I were in heels. This exercise built my calf and ankle muscles. Then I would do one leg at a time to build each leg individually. Thus taught me to support my own weight. I hope some of my exercise helps someone . . . from Elysia Ganier

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