What’s the best way to rebuild my strength after being in a wheelchair, so I can walk again?

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For the past 3 years I have been using a wheelchair because of a fall. I am ready to put it aside. But now, I have NO muscle strength in my back and hips in order to stand or walk. What do I need to be doing to get myself back on my feet?

Disclaimer: Please note, this reply is for informational purposes only. It’s not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician, physical therapist, or other qualified health provider with a medical condition.

Things to Know

  • Strength in the core and legs, balance and endurance are all important components of walking.
  • Anything that stretches your knees, ankles, and hips would be helpful.
  • Physical therapists can recognize things that may be limiting your return to walking.

We’re limited in our ability to give you specific information without doing an examination of your strength and current abilities. We can, however, provide general information about things that may be helpful. 

We highly recommend that you go to physical therapy for an evaluation. A physical therapist can work with you to create an individualized and specific strengthening program to help you meet your goals of standing and walking. This is especially important given your history of falls; a PT can show you the safest ways to start exercising and walking again.

Building strength can start very simply. Strength in the core and legs, balance and endurance are all important components of walking. If your core, back and hips are very weak, you may be challenged enough by sitting on the edge of your chair without back support. Stay like this until you feel fatigued but not painful. 

Other exercises to try while sitting in your chair include marching, straightening and bending the knee, reaching overhead, and gently twisting your back.

Many people who have been wheelchair users for some time will also develop stiffness in their joints, and it may be beneficial to start a stretching program. Anything that stretches your knees, ankles, and hips would be helpful. You can also stretch the front of your body by laying on your stomach in bed for a few minutes a day.

man reaches overhead with dumbbells during exercise in a wheelchair

These activities may help to build a foundation for building further strength and return to walking, however many people benefit from the professional guidance of a physical therapist to manage issues that come up along the way. Physical therapists are experts in managing how fast or slow to progress someone based on their individual needs and can help recognize things that may be limiting your return to walking that may not be obvious to you or others.

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From Wheelchair to Walking Again
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