Around the time of my ehlers-danlos diagnosis I was offered physio via the CRESTA Clinic in Newcastle. I was told wonderful things about the physio via my consultant and was very optimistic about making an appointment with her! 8 months on I now have 2 physios (I’m collecting them) and I love them. It’s been a slow start, with the main focus being my constantly dislocated shoulders, but I’ve now got six different exercises and stretches to be doing in a four day cycle that suits my spoons. As these exercises/stretches are suitable to do in bed and are specifically suited to EDS, I’ve decided to share them with you. In particular for those of you who are unable to actually get to a physio of any kind.
First we start with legs, well I do anyway as this is the least painful part for me! This stretch is best done sat up but with plenty of back and leg support, however it’s very easily done lying down as well. You simply stick your legs out in front of you, pull your ankles up so your toes are pointing upwards and press your knees down into the surface below you. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat 20 times for each leg (I tend to alternate).
This is more of a leg exercise than a stretch, place a firm cushion, rolled up towel or foam roller under your knee. Your knee should be bent upwards with your foot flat on the bed. Gently lift your lower leg up without letting your knee move away from the roller or towel underneath it, hold for 10 seconds and repeat 20 times for each leg. Again, I tend to alternate 10 reps per leg to rest each leg between sets. I do both leg exercises each day of the week, as advised by Vicki, but do what your body can manage and don’t push yourself too far.
Now we’ll move upwards to some shoulder exercises. All three upper body exercises mainly work the rotator cuffs of your shoulders, whilst also working with your biceps and triceps.
Firstly, sit propped up if possible, although lying down is just as easy here. Place a firm cushion or folded pillow across your side and stomach, with your elbow placed on the pillow in alignment with your hip and at a 90 degree ankle. I use a light weight to do this and the next exercise but you can use none at all or one slightly heavier, so that you’re working your muscles properly. With the weight gripped in your hand which should be on the pillow, in a straight line from your elbow, slowly move your forearm up, elbow constantly on the pillow, until your hand is just slightly past your elbow. Hold for 10 seconds, slowly bring your hand back down to the pillow and repeat 10 times for each arm.
This one is similar to the last, you’ll still need the pillow, and weight if using it, turn to lie on your side, place the folded pillow on your side with your forearm and elbow resting on it as before. This exercise uses the exact same movement as above, slowly bring your forearm and hand up, without moving your elbow off the pillow, move just past being in line with your elbow and hold for 10 seconds before slowly bringing your hand back down. Repeat 10 times for each arm. I do both weighted shoulder exercises every 4 days, or 4 days after doing something “strenuous” like going to an appointment. Resting is just as important as muscle building.
One of the physios was a little ambitious with how many times she wanted me to repeat this next exercise and with how often I was supposed to be doing it, thankfully a chat with Vicki, the physio at the CRESTA Clinic, got this changed to doing fewer of these, along with adding in an extra stretch that does the same job.
Lay facedown on the bed, place a pillow, or sometimes I use a hot water bottle, under your stomach. Make sure you are lying completely flat, so you don’t hurt your neck or tense your back when doing this, with your arms by your side. Without moving anything else, slowly move your shoulders back so that your shoulder blades come closer together and hold for 10 seconds, then relax. I was supposed to do this in 10 sets of 10 reps, however, I now do 10 reps for 3-4 sets, which is what I would recommend you aimed for as well. It would be wise to build this up gently though, to prevent too much payback from your body.
This stretch is the one that Vicki gave me as an alternative to doing so many sets of the last exercise and exhausting myself. You can use a rolled up towel, rolled up thick scarf or a large foam roller for this. Simply place whatever you are using lengthways up your back whilst lying on the floor or bed, making sure it ends just before your neck, and allow your shoulders to fall backwards. This opens up your shoulders and requires the rotator cuffs and muscles in your upper chest to work, without putting strain on your body or your spoons! Lay like like this for 5 minutes at a time, taking little breaks to relax your shoulders, and repeat it 4-5 times. I do this every day if possible, whilst the exercise is to be done the day before the weighted exercises are done in my four day rotation. However, I suggest you play around with this and see what works best for you.
I hope you’ll find these stretches and exercises useful, are there any exercises or stretches that you find particularly good? Has your physio suggested any other forms of exercise that could be beneficial?
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