Daily Exercise/Stretches that Relieve Pain and Improve Mobility for Children
From traumatic brain injuries to pediatric multiple sclerosis (MS) and scoliosis, there are many conditions that require parents to help their children exercise and stretch. Daily exercise/stretching can help reduce muscle tightness, reduce inflammation in the joints, and alleviate pressure on muscles and nerves – all of which reduces pain and increases mobility. Movement can also slow-down or stop some neurological damage.
Carrie Munson understands the importance of daily movement. Her five-year old son, Dillon has pediatric MS. Although rare in children, this neurological disease can be painful and debilitating. Fortunately, daily exercise and stretching helps keep Dillion active. However, these sessions were often more difficult than they needed to be.
Most pediatric cases of MS are relapsing-remitting, with symptoms worsening for a few days or weeks and then resolving partially or completely for a while. When Dillon was in remission, he enjoyed exercising and stretching with his mom, who tried to make it fun "together" time. However, when he was symptomatic, pain and stiffness made it difficult for him to get up and down from the floor and, understandably, led to struggles over exercise sessions. In addition, Carrie began experiencing back and neck pain from working with him on the floor, which put her body in awkward positions.
“Having a child with a chronic medical condition can be challenging,” said Carrie. “So, when we find tools and techniques that make things easier we use them!”
Their physical therapist suggested they invest in a PhysioBoard. This lightweight, yet sturdy board can be placed on any bed and used as an effective exercise surface. Helping Dillion exercise and stretch on an elevated surface helped alleviate Carrie’s back and neck pain, and it was easier for him when his symptoms were flaring. He also thought it was fun!
“I store PhysioBoard behind the bedroom door and simply put it on the bed each morning when we do our routine. It’s easier on both of us,” enthused Carrie. “In fact, I started using it for my own exercises and stretches to keep my back pain free. I love it!”
Making exercise and stretching a daily habit is important for everyone, especially those that suffer from chronic conditions. A few exercises that Carrie and her physical therapist recommend for kids with MS (and all of us) include:
Hamstring stretches – Tight hamstrings can trigger back pain. To do this exercise, have your child lie on his or her back. Wrap a long sheet, belt, or stretch band around one foot, with the child holding the ends. Ask your child to raise that foot toward the ceiling, keeping the knee as straight as possible. They should feel a gentle stretch in the back of the leg. Do three to five 30- to 45-second holds per leg. Try singing a song together during each stretch!
Calf stretches – Stretching the calves can make it easier for kids to stand with their feet flat on the floor without pain. Have your child sit down with one leg extended, the other relaxed and bent at the knee. Wrap a long sheet, belt, or stretch band around the extended foot, with your child holding the ends. Your child will then pull on the sheet, belt, or band, drawing back the toes for a gentle stretch in the calf. Do three to five 30- to 45-second holds per leg.
Butterfly stretches – The fluid-filled sacs that pad the hip joint often become inflamed with MS, which causes hip and back pain. To reduce this inflammation and keep hips flexible, try butterfly stretches. While sitting, have your child bend his or her legs and bring the soles of the feet together so they touch, letting the knees fall out to the side. Bring his or her heels as close to the body as they can and lean forward into the stretch. Using their elbows, have your child gently push their knees toward the ground, “flapping’ the legs slowly up and down like a butterfly’s wings.
There are many other exercises, such as lying leg lifts, bridges and back extensions that can help keep pain at bay and improve flexibility and mobility. And, all of these exercises can be done safely on a PhysioBoard!
Always consult with your child’s physician or physical therapist before beginning any new exercise/stretching routine.
To learn more about the PhysioBoard and how it can help you and your child, go to www.physioboard.net.
“Beat Pediatric MS Pain With These PT Exercises,” by K. Aleisha Fetters.
National Multiple Sclerosis Society