Thursday, July 8, 2010

Article: Stand and Deliver

I wanted to pass along a link to a 2007 article about the medical benefits of regularly using a standing machine/table/frame for people with with spinal cord injuries, which I got via my friends at the EasyStand Blog's Twitter page. In one of my past osteoporosis posts I included a link, also via the EasyStand website, to the medical benefits of standing. But this article goes into much more detail about SCI’s immediate post-injury effects on the body, the importance of post-SCI exercise programs, and the multi-benefits of active standing’s role in continued rehab than I could have never provided myself. Although this article is mostly about the benefits of using a standing machine in an acute rehab setting, I think that it has much wider application as well. It’s an interesting read.

I would break down my personal history of standing into three phases. Phase One occurred in the fall of 1996 when I used a standing machine for the first time during my eight week post-SCI rehab stint out at Craig Hospital in Denver. The first time I got on one it took a long time to get all the way up to a standing position because of a combination of being skinny (at the time), the mile high elevation, and all the blood rushing to my feet made me really dizzy. There was a really cool wheelchair tech guy that often helped patients stand and he would do this Zen-like aggressive calf rub thing that helped to get the blood flowing back north again. When I started incorporating standing into the rest of my rehab routine more often it took a while for me to get up to the standing position, taking breaks to stop and/or lower myself again to regain my bearings, and I could only stand for a short while once a week. But ultimately I got to a point where I could pump myself all the way up to standing on one try, only fighting off a short dizzy period once I was all the way up, and I did it at least twice a week in half hour spurts. Some people out there were standing almost every day for much longer periods of time. At the time it was a nice morale booster to be able to get back up on my feet again.

Phase Two was about six months later when we got an EasyStand for my room. But as I briefly mentioned before, I used it very sporadically because I didn’t have a regular routine down. At one point it got moved from my room to the garage (because it was always in the way of things) which led to even less use because it was out of sight and out of mind. And when I did stand it seemed like I could only really handle it for a half hour. When I was diagnosed with severe osteoporosis last year one my first thoughts was about how little I stood over that five to six year period and wishing retrospectively that I had stood a lot more often. I was told that it wouldn’t have prevented the onset of osteoporosis but it definitely would have helped to slow down the loss rate of bone mineral density.

Phase Three is the present phase. When I moved to my own apartment in 2003 we moved my stander in as well, and I almost immediately incorporated standing into my regular morning routine. At least every other day (weekends excluded) I stand for up to an hour while I eat breakfast and watch ESPN. It’s nice to get that frequent upright feeling as well as to get some weight on my joints and bones. When I come down I almost always get those same quasi-peaceful sensations I used to get when endorphins would kick in after a workout or swim practice back when I was in high school. People that have never seen me stand are always surprised about how tall I actually am.

The part of the article that gets into how combining the use of a Glider—a stander that allows a person to work out their arms while simultaneously making their legs move back and forth (very similar to that Gazelle thing you’ve probably seen on infomercials: “You can do it!!!)—with functional neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) can encourage muscle contractions makes me wish that I sustained my SCI in 2007 and not 1996. Because incorporating that kind of science and technology into my standing routines would have definitely made standing at all three of my phases much more interesting, effective, and perpetually therapeutic. And probably would have led to me standing much more often in Phase Two.


  1. Hey Shawn,
    What matters most is that your standing now... and you are inspiration to others... keep up the great job!

  2. That's nice of you to say, thanks. And I will!