13 Best Stretch Exercises for Wheelchair Users

New infographic created by a power wheelchair company KD Smart Chair, visualizes the best 13 stretching exercises for wheelchair users. Sitting long hours in a wheelchair may cause back pains, stress, joint discomfort, muscle tensions.

Sitting too long in a wheelchair may lead to lower back pain and tightening of back muscles and joints. Under those circumstances doing some stretching may help reduce this type of back pain and help relieve any cramps or joint stiffness.

Benefits of exercises for wheelchair users

By performing these stretching exercises, wheelchair-bound individuals can reduce stress, receive back pains. And also improve your posture and blood circulation. The benefits for wheelchair users are many and have been proven through various studies overtime, they include:

  1. Increased flexibility and joint range of motion
  2. Improved circulation
  3. Better posture
  4. Stress relief
  5. Enhanced coordination
  6. increased energy levels
  7. Reduced muscle tensions

Talk to your doctor

Talk to your doctor, physical therapist, or other health care professional about activities suitable for your medical condition. Healthcare professionals can also help with mobility issues to help you avoid any injuries by getting medical clearance.

Questions to ask your doctor about wheelchair exercises

  • What are good exercises for people in wheelchairs?
  • How much exercise you can do each day and each week?
  • Are there exercises or activities you better avoid?
  • How can I strengthen my legs in a wheelchair?
  • The type of exercises you should do?
  • What type of medication will interfere with your exercises routines?

13 Wheelchair Stretching Exercises

  1. Hold left elbow with right hand. Gently pull elbow behind your head until an easy stretch is felt in the shoulder or back of your upper arm. Repeat exercise for other arm.
  2. Hold left elbow with your right hand and gently pull your elbow behind your head until an easy stretch is felt. Gently lean sideways from your hips to stretch along the side of your upper body. Repeat exercise for the other side.
  3. Raise your arms above your head with your palms facing up. Push your arms slightly back and up. Feel the stretch in your arms, shoulders, and upper back.
  4. Keeping your hips straight in the chair, turn your upper body to the right and then to the left. Turn so you are looking over your shoulder. This exercise will create a stretch in your back and sides. (Persons with spine, chest or back injuries should have their doctor’s approval before doing this exercise.)
  5. Interlace your fingers with your palms facing out and your arms extended at shoulder height in front of you. Extend your arms forward to stretch your shoulders, mid-upper back, arms, hand, fingers, and wrists.
  6. Pull your elbow gently across your chest toward the opposite shoulder until a comfortable stretch is reached. This exercise is good for the shoulder and mid-upper back.
  7. Bend forward to stretch the areas from the neck through the lower back. Find a comfortable position and hold it for about 1 – 2 minutes. To sit up, put your hand on your thighs and push your upper body to an upright position.
  8. Pull the top of your shoulders up towards your earlobes and hold for 5 – 8 seconds. Relax completely and allow your shoulders to drip down naturally. Repeat this several times. This exercise is good for relieving stiffness and tension in the shoulders and neck.
  9. Make sure you have a good posture while sitting in the chair. Tilt your head to the left side and at the same time, allow your right shoulder to move downward. This exercise will create a stretch along the side of the neck. Repeat on the other side.
  10. Interlace your fingers behind your head, keeping your elbows straight out to the side. Keep your upper body in an upright position in the center. Pull the shoulder blades together to create a feeling of tension through your upper back and shoulder blades. Hold this tension for 10 – 15 seconds and then relax. Repeat this exercise several times.
  11. Sitting in an upright, central position, interlace your fingers on the back of your head. Gently pull your head downward until a slight stretch is felt in the back of the neck. (Persons with cervical spine injuries should have their doctor’s approval before doing this stretch.)
  12. Pull your knee toward your chest until an easy stretch is felt. Hold it until the tension disappears, then stretch a little further until a mild, comfortable tension is felt again. Repeat for your other leg.
  13. Pull your knee across your body toward the opposite shoulder to stretch the outside of your upper leg. Hold for 30 – 50 seconds. Repeat for your other leg.

Further reading: 150+ Jobs for People with Disabilities

13 Best Stretch Exercises for Wheelchair Users