I created this website and my YouTube (which has admittedly been neglected) to help others. After creating my Instagram and documenting my journey, inspiring people, and any other impact I had, I decided that I could do more.
This website is made with people in rehab in my mind. Specifically, my past self since I know myself the most. When I think of topics to write about, I look to my life, my past and present and imagine what I wish I knew sooner or did differently. Though I love how I turned out and if given the chance, I wouldn’t change anything. But if someone sends you this or you find me somehow, and you’re in rehab, then hopefully you have the chance to speed up the process.
This is something I wish someone told me, and maybe someone did, I wish I heeded that advice. Read. Learn. Grow. I had been for a long time, but I really stepped it up once I started my first internship. So far, in 2020 at the time of writing, I have read more books this year than I have collectively beforehand. Probably about once a week or close to it.
When I was in rehab, it was four weeks, my mom stayed with me the entire time. I had my speaker with me playing music the entire time. It was quite hard for me to go without music. In retrospect, it probably kept me sane because I didn’t have much quiet time or downtime to get existential or depressed about my situation. And now, I just don’t because I’m past the time for that to happen. I like the non-stop, stuck-on-go lifestyle. No breaks, or very few, just constant growth, powered by curiosity and hunger.
And now that you have some insight, and if you’re in rehab (which means you definitely have downtime), I advise you to read. Audible – audio books – is my favorite, especially useful if you can’t move your arms. I listen at 1.6x speed, sometimes I read along if I have the book, and because it’s audio, I can do it while doing other things.
If you’re not a book person, why not podcasts? Documentaries? Join clubs and online meetings?
If you’re in rehab, you can use this time to get ahead, get interested in something new. Anything from mindfulness to HVAC systems to culinary arts to law.
If you have no control neck down and no major brain hindrances, then your mind and voice are very important and, especially today, you can really do anything. If you wanted to go into politics, you just need to hear, think, and talk. You could become a programmer and use your voice to type code. Stephen Hawking was a great physicist and I believe he used only his cheek or something like that to control a computer to convey his thoughts and move. Imagine that, having a phenomenal and brilliant mind such as Stephen Hawking and having a communication obstacle. He still did it though, and the world is better for it.
Even in my childhood, I wish I had read more instead of play Minecraft. Though I actually didn’t play video games much at all and I still did other great things, A book every 2 months would’ve been good.
Get a kindle, you can read and listen together. Get Audible, which is what I use. They just released a feature where, if you’re an audible gold member, you have a huge selection of books that are included for free. My library went from 38 to 112.
Rehab, for me at least, was a break from life. It was a free month as I see it. I didn’t have school, I didn’t have work, I didn’t have any of the stress of daily life.
I woke up, I recovered, I worked hard, I was challenged (something I love), all my food was made and delivered, I was surrounded by lovely people who cared about me, I wrote, I met new people to come back home to, and I learned a lot about myself and the world.
It’s been non-stop ever since – going back to school, having an internship, a week later going to Australia, and now back to school where I am now.
Summary: In rehab, my greatest regret was not doing more learning while I had the opportunity. I did do a lot and I wouldn’t change it, but I wish I fit it in somehow. Podcasts, books, online courses, etc.
Overdeliver: If you get an Amazon prime account, and go on the kindle app or on the page, you’ll see some books that are included for prime members and some of them come with an audio that will go to your audible account. In fact, with Amazon Prime, there are so many benefits and free features, such as music and streaming, that it’s very worth it. I love companies like Tesla or Amazon that overdeliver.
Have you ever talked to someone with mule breath, they smell a hockey locker room minus the body spray, maybe their teeth are ripe and yellow.
Not the greatest image for me to put in your head. Whatever type of person you thought of, you likely didn’t have high regard. What if I told you they were the CEO of a Fortune 10 company? That might change a lot of presumptions, but you’d think they would shower and brush in tiny little circles.
It’s a fact, and it won’t be changing anytime soon, that people judge within the first few seconds of meeting people. It starts with the shoes, actually. But it might begin with the breath so bad that it touches your bones.
Bad hygiene is ever more so bad if you’re in a wheelchair. There are already some negative stigmas, none that I know of but I’m sure there are some, so being a stinky person won’t make people want to help you more.
Another thing that people do, aside from judge you based on appearance, is to judge you based on history.
I’ve met some really awesome people, and when I meet someone else with the same name or some similarities, I’m more apt to like them.
The same goes for the opposite. If you’re in a wheelchair and have certain negative connotations, then when that person meets me, they will already have a pre-conceptualized stigma.
This is good to know because if you’re outside and someone says something mean to you (never happened to me, but I know it has happened to others), you know that it’s not actually you and that it’s likely just that someone in a wheelchair was mean to them or did something to give them a reason, whether logical or not, to dislike all people in wheelchairs.
This issue, the one above, has happened all over history, mostly with race, heritage, or culture.
There are not many excuses for having bad hygiene. There are reasons, such as a literal inability to keep good hygiene, but you’d have to at least try a few times, and with help if necessary, to deem it unfeasible.
If you can’t move your arms, then it’s possible that you have someone to help you with certain things, they could likely help you with hygiene as well – smelling good and looking good.
The point is that it feels good to feel healthy. When you dress up well, shower, brush, and put on deodorant, it’ll make for a good first impression and have you feeling alive. When I start to get gross from camping for a few nights, I don’t feel as energetic or charming as I typically do.
Immediate actionable items: Clean up. Get a routine or start doing something now.
Summary: Good hygiene is important for you and others. To make a good impression, to have others want to help you and not think lowly of you. And to make yourself feel good.
Overdeliver: If the times are dire, you can always get some wet wipes and clean yourself off that way. Or a sponge bath.
You may not have thought that you would need to give much of any thought to the pants you buy, but here I am writing about it because there is some thought, more than style, that paraplegics should have when buying pants.
Here’s the thing, and this will we fairly quick, it comes down to just a few things, personal sensibility, potential effect, and style.
What we’re looking at in pants, and actually socks and shoes as well, are the seams and high contact points. If you’ve ever worn tight clothes or taken a nap and had your face on some wrinkles in the pillow sheet, then you’ll know the effect of seams and other things such as back pockets.
When you sit down practically the entire day in a pair of corduroys, you may find later that night to have stripes all along your legs where they were touching the seat.
That may be okay for a few times or for certain cases, but in general, those in wheelchairs should have a keen eye for the construct of pants in order to avoid anything uneven.
The main reason is that this could cause a pressure sore. When I wear socks, they’re compression socks, and they leave marks, so I have to either adjust them throughout the day or make sure to take them off early in the day. I’ll talk more about socks later. Be aware of creases in your pants and avoid letting them bunch up beneath you.
Depending on your level of sensitivity, you may find through experience that certain pants are uncomfortable. I have enough feeling that I can tell when my cushion needs to be blown up, deflated, or the pressure needs to be distributed differently. Along with that, I can tell if my pants are the right or wrong kind.
For me, and probably for you, even if you don’t have feeling, I aim for smoother pants, with either no back pockets or back pockets that are in the pants (like chinos) and not attached to the back like they are for jeans. Even chinos have a button, so I’ll always aim for pants with no back pockets. It is possible to take off the button if it really bothers you and you really like the pants.
I was inspired to write about this when I wore a pair of corduroys and felt terribly uncomfortable all day because of both the lines and the external back pocket.
Most pants have the main stitching on the sides, but if for some reason the seams are in the center of the thigh on both sides, I advise avoiding those.
One last thing to think of is how you wear the pants. My waist is rather small, about a 27 or 26 maybe, and I used to have monstrous legs, which gave me issues with pants, but now my problem is finding pants that won’t fall down when I readjust or do a transfer. If the waistband is elastic, then I’m usually fine, but if not, then I have a belt.
What you should be careful of, especially if you don’t have much sensitivity, is when you have your pants on tight, they will likely be tight around the booty and make things uncomfortable. Because pants are mostly designed for walking and standing, they typically come down a bit in the back when people sit. This is how the unfortunate event of buttcracks showing happens. And if you look at a belt of anyone who wears one for a while, the belt tends to curve in the middle from when the pants move down when people sit.
So, because you’re sitting, don’t have the pants too tight such that they cause issues when sitting.
Recap. When buying pants, look at the areas between you and the chair, avoid extrusions and beck pockets, make sure the seams aren’t huge or in a bad place, and don’t wear a belt too tight that causes them to hike up. Elastic waistbands are nice.
And now that you know some things to avoid in pants, what should we look for?
Well, I like pants that have front pockets that zip shut, usually found in athletic pants, its useful because it keeps things from falling out like they might otherwise. The side pockets are easier to access than the ones that have the opening parallel with the waistband.
It’s good to have at least two pairs of athletic pants and dressier pants. Another thing to look at in athletic pants is how warm they are for the winter, sometimes I’ll layer my lululemon joggers under my pants since it gets rather cold where I live. If you find yourself in an outdoor situation, maybe look into buying water repellent or waterproof pants.
You’ll see a post soon of the best pants I found.
Immediate actionable items: If you’re in a wheelchair, check which pants of yours are likely to not be good for you and update your selection to be better for you and your body. If you’re not in a wheelchair, you’re probably fine.
Summary: Pants can cause issues if you’re in a wheelchair because you sit down a lot. When buying pants or choosing which pair to wear today, there are things to consider that filter out certain pants and bring new ones to your closet.
Overdeliver: When it comes to pants, or shorts, having them too stretchy can be an issue. If you’ve seen the youtube video where I show you how to put on pants, you’ll see how it could be problematic because if they’re too stretchy they wouldn’t pull on as easily and would just stretch.
When I was in rehab after my surgery, it was in-house. I proudly stayed at Shirley Ryan Ability Lab in Chicago, which is not where chai tea was invented, but they do have yoga at Millennium Park.
I had my own room and accrued a lot more than I suspected. I basically moved in. I was also sent heaps of socks and hats from lovely fans on Instagram. I was there for four weeks, but it felt a lot longer, yet it’s now been over a year since I left rehab.
While I was at Shirley Ryan – rehab for short – I was put into a routine. Now, there are many books about habits and routines and how important they are, which is the foundation this article will be built on, but we’ll be talking about what it means to have a routine for someone in a wheelchair, and the importance of it.
The routine I was put into was on many levels. I had my personal routines that I held myself to, such as brushing my teeth at night, writing about my day every night, doing schoolwork because I started my next semmy at school, and reading.
The routines from rehab were going to the bathroom, throughout the day and at night, and in the beginning, I was woken up at 4am to go to the bathroom but that stopped soon. I had to drink water throughout the day – helping me heal – and I ate at the same times. I got to choose my meals, but I eventually found the ones I liked the most and stuck with those.
I also had some vitamins and medication that I took regularly. I had my blood drawn a few times, but not enough to count as a routine.
Each day in the morning I would be given my schedule for the day, it would say when and with who I have a physio session or some event. I requested the maximum amount of physio and whenever another person in rehab had to cancel a session, I was the first one called up to the plate and I aim for the stands.
Routine is specifically important for people in wheelchairs, paraplegic, quadriplegic, or anything else, because we have to know ourselves a lot more than the next person over.
If a certain food presages, we really need to know. We need to eat the healthiest foods for our bodies to heal as much as it can.
Athletes, the extreme and best, will typically do this. They have a diet they follow – the food and liquid intake and timing- which leads them to have a bathroom routine. They will have a time for bed and waking up. They will structure their day around that because their body (depending on what athlete I guess) is their most important part and is everything for their sport.
When bodybuilder cut down for competitions, something I’ve done many times, every gram and ounce of food and water is measured and it’s all for the body to react to predictably.
If you eat a certain brekkie that’s both healthy and eaten at a certain time, you will know that you’re contributing to your health and a predictably timed poop, that is if you do the same for all your meals and drinks.
If you go to the gym, which also may contribute to pooping, then going at the same time will help with body predictability.
Why is this body predictability actually useful? Having a routine is useful when you have it and when you break it.
When I had my routine, which was built within four weeks, I was peeing at 4am, or at the least, right before bed and then again early morning.
When I left rehab and went home, I knew nothing about how effective and embedded my routine had become.
On my first night home, or one of the nights early on, I woke up peeing in the bed. A good thing to know that my bladder won’t explode, but a bad thing that I had my then-girlfriend and two foam mattress toppers with me.
If I were aware of my routine, I’d know exactly when my body would want, rather, need to go to the bathroom.
If you’re able to get a routine, and it’s very likely you can, then you’ll know when your body needs to pee or anything like that and it will help with structuring your day. If you have a routine to poop every other day, then you can plan a one-night camping trip on the night you don’t poop. Having routines like the examples above enable you to be certain (to a degree) about what your body will do, also, because you may know that you poop at 7:26pm, you can get in tune with your body and listen for any signs. In the event that you do something danger zone and fall out of the routine, you’ll then know the language of your body and the signs for when you need to poop.
I was with a good friend of mine sailing on lake Michigan, we went to a restaurant after for some drinks and I told him that I was going to need to use his bathroom as soon as we got back to his place.
A few seconds later and I realized that there was no such time.
I excused myself by saying, I’m gonna have to shit here man, and headed to the bathroom. I went into the stall, yanked my pants down, got over the toilet, and dropped the kids off at the pool. I got my pants back on, which is fairly easy, but hard enough that sometimes I wonder what would happen if I just went around without them, I did put them on though and then went back to the table.
Only about 9 minutes, maybe less, had passed. Most of it was the pants coming on and off.
If you don’t know how to listen to your body, you should probably wear a diaper. I wear them sometimes. Usually at a party where I may not be able to go to the bathroom or maybe I run out of catheters from peeing so much, or on an airplane where getting to the bathroom isn’t really a possibility, or if I’m ill, or if all my underwear is dirty and I need something to wear.
Having a routine is important and I made my case.
Here’s the take-out version.
If you have a routine, you’ll know when you’ve broken it and can prepare, you can also follow your routine and structure your day around it and without surprises.
When you do break your routine, which will happen if you are doing lots of cool things or something unexpected happens, be prepared for your routine not to break. If you know you’ll be busy at 12:29pm and that’s when you pee, then wear a diaper or find a way to pee within a few minutes of that time, because your body will do it.
Immediate actionable items: Figure out what you can put into a routine. Diet? Exercise time? Bathroom? Sleep? Anything.
Summary: Routines are important for you to know about your body and have certainty. With a good routine, you’ll be certain for when you’ll have to pee if you have a routine of drinking water or anything else. You’ll learn how your body reacts and learn your language. If you break your routine, you’ll
Overdeliver: When you have a diet and exercise routine, you’ll be able to diagnose illness a lot better. There have more occurrences than I’d like of me having a bad reaction to food. Mainly the act of it going through me without much of any digestion, and sometimes regurgitation. But I was able to factor out the food in my routine and consider anything that I’ve added to my diet and stop eating it and see if my illness ends.
In the summer, the sun is a scorcher and we all know that. If you don’t live somewhere where the heat gets cranked up, then this is just a little bit of knowledge for you. If you live anywhere that the sun cooks, this is important, especially if you haven’t experienced a summer in a wheelchair.
I was in Australia during their summer and right now I’m in the US and having almost equally hot days. I was laying out on my pool deck getting sun kissed and I had my chair over my face. I had my phone hanging up under my seat playing an audiobook and I was in relax mode.
I also had a towel on the deck under my legs as well as a patio chair cushion under my hips – the towel so that my feet wouldn’t be on the hot ground and the cushion so that I would be comfortable. In moving the chair from where it was to cover my face, the towel that I had on it fell off and I didn’t know. I had brought a white towel with me to set on my chair to keep it from getting too hot.
Likely, your chair, seat, and backrest are all black. Mine are. It keeps it from looking dirty, sure. Under the sun is no place for a chair that absorbs heat. Especially for someone who might not have feeling, getting burned by sitting on a hot seat or backrest, or burning your feet on a hot metal footplate is among the top three worst things you could have happen.
I have gotten burned before. It was my footplate, hot metal and the skin on my big toe clashed, and the heat won.
When I got up after listening to a few chapters of my audiobook, I realized the white towel that I had placed on the wheelchair had fallen off. I realized too late that the towel had fallen off and saw that my seat, which is both black and air inflated, was looking juiced up. I immediately open the airflow otherwise it would’ve popped. That has happened to me before as well, my chair popped a hole after the heat. Luckily I still have the seat under warranty and that was only like four or five months after rehab.
Even while I’m in the wheelchair, any part that isn’t covered by me will get hot and I then have to be careful not to touch it. When I go outside in the heat, even if my chair never saw the light of sun, the heat still inflates it.
This is my experience and the lessons are these, when your wheelchair is in the sun, cover it up or put something on it before you go to sit in it, otherwise a burn may ensue. Pay attention to the footplate and the heat of it, maybe even paint it white or silver (mine is black). When in the heat or going through any temperature change, understand that your air inflated seat will change pressure and you’ll need to be keen on observing the change and adjust accordingly.
Immediate actionable items: Check the heat of things with the back of your hand or inside of your wrist where the temperature sensitivity is rather acute and judge for yourself whether or not it’s safe to touch, sit, or anything else. Maybe even buy some lighter color items to lay over your wheelchair seat or backrest, etc.
Summary: Instead of you learning from experience that warm weather makes an air inflated seat pop or that it can make parts of a wheelchair so hot you burn yourself, you can learn that here and take the lessons with you all the same.
Overdeliver: If you’re in a wheelchair and your backrest is a dark color and has any level of cushioning (mine has too much), then it can be both hot and cause you to sweat. Find or buy a white dry fit shirt or cloth to put over the backrest to mitigate the effects of heat.
When I was in rehab, we were required to wear our belts and I didn’t like it. I don’t know exactly why, but I just didn’t want to wear it. I reckon it has something to do with being told I had to wear it.
When I was ordering my wheelchair, I almost didn’t get the seatbelt but I’m glad I did, I call it the adventure belt because, when I do have it on, it means that something awesome is going to happen.
I was once told about a guy who didn’t have a seatbelt or brakes for his chair, which is ridiculous, and hopefully, you don’t do that.
When I first got my chair, I strapped the belt below my seat and ignored it. I thought it was the dumbest thing ever and I was adamantly against it.
Then, I started to get into the Danger Zone, where things get exciting. Going up and downstairs, doing tricks, falling a few times, working out, doing handstands, falling some more, getting up ledges, and probably more that I can’t think of.
Imagine being in the car without a seat belt and hitting the brakes, your body moves forward. Think of speeding up quickly, you move back into the seat. Wearing a seat belt in my wheelchair keeps me locked in so that I don’t shift around while moving and gives me better control over the chair I’m in.
When I go into a door with a ledge, I do a wheelie, get my front wheels in, and then pull the rest of my chair up. Without my adventure belt locked in, I would likely pull my body out of my chair. Same for going upstairs. I haven’t made a video about how to do it yet, but it wouldn’t be possible without an adventure belt.
I’ve fallen a few times, at the time of writing, I’ve fallen six times. Each of them is a pretty good story and only a few of them I wasn’t wearing the belt. From experience, having a belt on helps big time with falling. Imagine you’re going down a fairly steep hill in the grass, you hit a soft spot and your front wheels dig in. You’re already tipping forward from going down the hill and so you fall forward. You could either catch yourself or at least keep the fall from getting too bad and use your hands to twist your chair to the side to avoid falling anymore.
If you weren’t wearing a seatbelt, you would’ve fallen forward and gotten dumped straight out of your chair, possibly caught yourself but more likely tumbled down the hill a bit and maybe even get knocked by your wheelchair falling after you.
When it comes to working out, the best example is doing pull ups. When I was in rehab, we tried many ways to do pull ups but never thought about keeping me in the chair. I’m here to tell you that staying in the chair is the best way to do it, and that’s accomplished only with the use of the adventure belt.
Even having the belt a little loose is all right, so long as you have it on.
There have been many times in the city where I hit a bump or crack that sticks out far too high and it brings my chair to a complete stop, I haven’t fallen yet, but I sure would’ve if I hadn’t had the adventure belt on.
Immediate actionable items: If you’re in a wheelchair, start using your belt. If you already do use your belt or you aren’t in a wheelchair, then I’m just preaching over here.
Summary: Wearing a seat belt in a wheelchair is important for those who want to do crazy things and avoid falling out of your chair.
Overdeliver: After a while of using your seat belt in your wheelchair, you may notice the clamp that attaches your belt to your chair moved. Mine moves all the time because of all that I do. You can easily find the right tool and loosen it, put it back to how it was, and then tighten it back up. For the chair I use, when the clamp moves out of place, it will hit the spokes of the wheel, which shouldn’t happen.
Well, I have to say a few things before we talk about this.
All of this information is derived from knowledge accrued over time from experience, asking questions, a little above average knowledge of anatomy, and what works for me. I’m not like anyone else, so none of this is actually guaranteed to help you, but I reckon it will. I’m not a doctor or anything like that either, so if you try this stuff and somehow get hurt, well, that’s on you, my friend.
Muscle spasms. Before I got injured, I had them occasionally. My definition is the involuntary contraction of muscles. If you aren’t in a wheelchair, maybe your eyelid was twitching or maybe some muscle, your shoulder perhaps, was twitching.
For myself and other people in a wheelchair with similar issues, and my understanding is that a lot of people in wheelchairs have these “issues,” muscle spasms are inconvenient, helpful, and sometimes dangerous. Overall, muscle spasms aren’t welcomed to most people. Personally, because I’ve mastered my body, I don’t have any issues with muscle spasms, and I have it under complete control. I’m hoping my advice will allow you the same.
We’ll be talking specifically about leg muscle spasms because that’s where my experience begins and ends.
For me, muscle spasms became a noticeable thing outside of rehab. I don’t actually remember if I had any while I was in rehab, but I’m sure I did and they were just so minimal that it didn’t make a difference enough for me to have a memory of it happening.
For paraplegics or anyone with some spinal cord injury and little to no motor control, nearly all movement or muscle contraction is considered (to me) a muscle spasm.
There are two common ways that I get muscle spasms and this will likely be different than yours, either my legs will lock straight out, with my hip, quadricep, calf, and hamstring muscles all contracting in some way. The second way is for my hamstrings to tighten and if I’m lying down, it’ll draw my knees inward. Other than these two, my calves alone might have a muscle spasm and my feet will go tip-toe while I’m in my chair. Sometimes my leg will just jump, which seems like a rapid contraction of my quadricep and hip muscles.
Reactionary – hurt, touch/temperature, after stretching, or from not stretching/moving Movement – lying back, bumped the leg, bumpy ground E.T. – a questionable occurrence
There are a few things for me that are known to cause muscle spasms. To start with how muscle spasms can be helpful, my legs will react to pain or something outside of the “normal.”
When I was in rehab, I remember this happening for the first time when I was in the shower and sprayed cold water on my feet and they kind of jumped away from the water. Don’t try this with hot water, cold is fine though.
Sometimes I’ll hit my toe on something and I’ll get a similar reaction. This is helpful because it indicates to me that maybe something happened that hurt me and since I only feel a negligible level of pain, that muscle spasm tells me I should check and see if I just cut my leg or burned my toe.
So, one reason for muscle spasms can be called reactionary. This is something that you can’t stop from happening, it happens from the environment, and it mostly helps.
A few more reasons for a reactionary muscle spasm would be touchand stretching. When I go to massage therapy, my legs might have some type of muscle spasm after someone touches the bottom of my foot.
If you don’t stretch regularly, then you should, but if it’s been a while and you stretch for the first time, then you may notice some muscle spasms of whichever muscle you stretched.
If you have a common muscle spasm of a specific muscle and your leg moves in a certain way, that’s a good sign that you should be stretching more. If my hamstrings aren’t well stretched, then I might have muscle spasms that bend my leg in.
Movement muscle spasms occur as a reaction to a certain movement. This can be useful depending on what happens, but more than that, it’s predictable. For me, this is when I lay back or anytime my torso is 150 degrees or more from my legs. I see this as my body wanting to stand up when my body goes straight as if I were to be standing up.
This is predictable and because of that, I can tell when a transfer or something I do might induce a muscle spasm and I can plan accordingly. Also, if you’ve seen the video of my getting into an aircraft, you’ll notice that I was hanging out of the doorway and then my legs had this muscle spasm and then I stood up on my feet and it helped me get into the plane.
Another movement type spasm is when I’m in the wheelchair and going over gravel or some very uneven surface. When there is a lot of shaking or bumps, it will make my calves have a muscle spasm and my feet will go tippy-toe or slide forward, both aren’t an issue but can be annoying. A great solution, absolutely amazing solution is here.
Then, there are of course the muscle spasms that you can’t quite figure out why they happen. There is definitely a reason, but it isn’t obvious without more analysis than its worth. This could be when you’re laying down and your leg will twitch or sitting down and your foot will raise.
Stopping a muscle spasm
Brute force – moving against the muscle spasm Patience – waiting for it to go away Prediction – putting something in place to stop the muscle spasm
It isn’t always convenient when a muscle spasm happens, it can slow things down, cause a transfer to go awry, and maybe even keep you from doing something momentarily.
The thing with muscle spasms is that they don’t last, and for me, their potency over immediate time decreases in the same way a bouncy ball will. Meaning that if I lay back and my legs lock straight out, I wait for it to stop, sit back up, then lay down again, and the muscle spasm won’t happen or be as powerful.
The first tactic and my favorite is to just be patient. Let it happen, wait it out and then it’ll subside. If you do the same movement or do something reactionary that causes a muscle spasm multiple times within the same few minutes, you might find that after the second or third time there is no muscle spasm.
Aside from waiting it out, you can go for brute force, which I don’t think has any negative effect. Basically, if my foot is raised while I’m in a wheelchair, it’s because my calf is tightening (think of when people do calf raises for working out) and I will sometimes just push down on my knee to make my foot go flat again. This doesn’t always stop the muscle spasm completely, but for the calf example, it keeps my foot from being raised.
Another example of brute force would be going against the muscle. What this looks like for me is when I lay back and my legs go straight out, my hip muscles are also activating and cause my torso to be pushed back (to lie down completely), if I’m able to get my chest to my knees, this will stop the muscle spasm entirely. So, there may be a muscle spasm that happens when you do something and you can brute force your way to stop it by doing a counter movement.
As for the method of prediction, much like I mentioned earlier with the belt to keep your feet on your footplate, there may be things you can do to stop a muscle spasm from happening at all. When you do a transfer or a general movement and you know what does and generally doesn’t cause a muscle spasm, then you can either be prepared and have your hands in place to counter the muscle or have something ready so that it doesn’t catch you off guard.
Mitigating muscle spasms
Movement – leg bike Stretching – stretches
There are really two ways to stop muscle spasms from happening. But before I elaborate, the cheap seats might’ve missed that this is all from my experience and it’s plausible that none of this will apply, or all of it will work swimmingly.
I mentioned before that muscle spasms will reduce in strength and occurrence when you are doing the same thing over and over within some amount of time. If there is some specific movement you do that causes a muscle spasm and you do it repeatedly within a few minutes, the muscle spasms will reduce.
There are machines that you can use to move your legs. The one I used is pictured below and I could use my arms to move the pedals and those would make my legs move. In the beginning, my legs weren’t cooperating, but after 20 minutes, it was going smoothly, and afterward, I didn’t have any muscle spasms for any reason.
Not only is this healthy for you overall, but it also gets your legs moving in a way that can stop muscle spasms by giving them continuous movement.
If there isn’t a machine available, the next best way to mitigate muscle spasms is by stretching. When stretching out, it’s important to know that holding a stretch for an hour won’t help, it’ll actually hurt. You need to treat stretching like a workout, so sets and reps. It might look like pulling back your foot to stretch your calf 4 times each foot for 2 minutes each time, with a little break in between.
Staying well stretched is to infinity and beyond important. Sitting down all day or most of the day, avoiding technical terms, is not good for your muscles or body. If you expect to recover, and I fully expect that, then you should be preparing for it everyday by staying healthy and keeping your body in its best condition.
Immediate actionable items: Determine when you’ll start stretching and create a routine.
Summary: Muscle spasms are involuntary muscle contractions that can become a nuisance. We talk about why muscle spasms might be happening, how to stop them when they do and how to prevent that from happening or reduce the frequency.
Overdeliver: If you’re able to use a machine that moves your legs for you, close your eyes and visualize walking. I would do this as well as watch videos of myself walking before I got injured, if you have those, they might help.
If you’re in a wheelchair, or not, the purpose of this post is to help you realize that you should try to never complain and view life with patience and love.
Something I’ve seen more than I’d like is people complaining. Myself included, but I reckon I’m more careful/aware than most people.
In general, people don’t like to be around people that complain. In certain cases, people will tell me, because I’m in a wheelchair, that I’m allowed to complain. I don’t ever think that I’ve earned the right to complain or something like that, and no one should.
Everyone has problems, and for them, it could be a big deal but seem small when compared to others’ problems.
I’ve had conversations where a parent would tell me that once their kid started to complain, they told them to look at me and see that I’m not complaining and my issue is larger than theirs. The issue here is that everyone has a self-importance complex and the problems that affect them is a big deal.
The big question is how can we, in wheelchairs or anyone inconvenienced in life, stop complaining and have more patience and love?
I continually glance back at these wise words by Churchill to put me in check and stop complaining.
What does it look like to live with patience and love? Here are some select stories.
I’m meeting chatting with two guys in a wheelchair, I’m not particularly enthusiastic. Nothing to do with them in a wheelchair, but they’re just not exactly my type of people. Luckily, I have tolerance and unparalleled acting skills, so I stick around, listen and talk if a question is tossed my way.
We’re in the US and each of us has dealt with snow, so the topic migrates to dealing with snow in a wheelchair, a task that isn’t particularly pleasant.
One thing to point out is that a person in a wheelchair wouldn’t necessarily talk to someone not in a wheelchair about the problems in snow. The issue with this is that when 3 of us in a wheelchair got together, the other two only complained about wheelchair specific things.
So as the topic migrates to snow, the other guys talk about how annoying or how much they don’t like the slushy snow and when it sticks to the wheelchair tires and then when they get in the car, it gets all dirty.
That’s a small problem, something that most people have with their shoes. A topic that I don’t care to partake. It’s a car. Just a car and cold, muddy water. In 10 years, I won’t care or think about the little problems. Even tomorrow I won’t think about it.
This is an example of how it’s important to avoid even the smallest complaints, because those are the ones that really don’t matter and take away from a good conversation. Especially when they really don’t matter in the long term. The truth is that if you’re in a wheelchair or not, no one wants to hear about your tiny problems.
I’m on Instagram and I looked at someone’s profile that recently followed me. I notice they’re in a wheelchair, the motorized type that tends to be bulky – more than a manual chair.
They posted a picture at Starbucks (in the US) of one of the tables that has a little handicap symbol, a table meant to be adequate for people in wheelchairs and probably follows some dimension standard based on the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act).
Because of their bulky wheelchair, they actually couldn’t fit at the table, their chair had armrests with controls to move the chair and the table wasn’t high enough for them to go beneath. This person was ranting about how terrible Starbucks is and how inaccessible the table is.
As I see it, I’m just happy that Starbucks even did anything. They tried. Nothing is universal. It’s a common mistake made by people in wheelchairs to think that the world needs to accommodate them completely when it doesn’t even do so for people that aren’t disabled.
Should we not have anything high on shelves because some people are short? Should we flatten any hill because they can be steep and hard to get up? The answer is no.
Patience and love are needed. Patience because the world isn’t going to cater to you immediately and if you just make people aware (in an understanding demeanor) then all you need is patience and soon enough, that table could be raised.
Love. Have some love and appreciation for the people that tried and thought of you. Even if the table doesn’t work for you.
Here in Australia, a country that doesn’t have ADA, I’ve come across more than a few little issues as I’ve explored. There are many buildings with a step or two to get in and no ramp or sometimes the ramp is insanely steep and not possible without a little help from my friends. In the gym, none of the water fountains are accessible.
Having patience and love is important when it comes to raising issues, because what we fail to realize is that the world is not against us. No one put those steps there to spite you. Most people are good and want to help, they just need to hear your perspective.
At Curtin Uni, here in Aussie, there was a medium sized issue. The walkways are brick and the bricks had morphed into what could be considered brail for the jolly green giant. It was so bad in fact, that I would need to go very slow and be very cautious so that I wouldn’t hit a brick and fall forward. It’s almost happened a few times.
I brought up this issue, that the pathways are a high risk point for me to fall as well as literally anyone, who could easily trip.
I didn’t complain or attack with hate. I knew that it’s only natural given the number of trees in the area and I also knew that the uni cared about me and took it seriously. I just told them about the problem in the same way a consultant would if they hired one to find issues.
Nothing happened for a few months.
Patience was inhibited.
Some construction fences come up and after a few weeks, the path is smooth.
Going along this path is what made me want to write this. The point I’m getting across (ideally) is that when there is an issue of accessibility, realize that the world won’t accommodate you entirely, but if you kindly bring the issue in light and have patience, it very well may get resolved.
Here’s another quick-ish story.
There are a lot of hills at Curtin and all over the world. While at Curtin, I would be going up a hill with some friends and they’d mention something about how bad these hills are with a kind of “how dare they” tonality. Not really with hate towards the uni but just saying how inaccessible the hills are. And they are rather steep and getting a push always helps. But my typical response is that I don’t mind.
Sometimes hills do get tiring, but that’s the same for 99% of people (probably animals as well).
I don’t expect the world to level itself for the likes of me, I’d be upset if it did so. I love the world and if there are hills, then let there be hills.
All I need is patience to get up the hills, as well as a bit of strength or an amazing friend. The latter I’ve had the great fortune of having many of in my life.
Immediate action items: The next time you have something happen that you might complain about, remember the quote and if you can’t fix the issue by bringing it up or doing something yourself, then just have patience.
Summary: Don’t complain about little problems. Bring issues to light and they will likely get solved if you have patience and don’t demonize the rest of the world. Approach people with love and understand that they’re trying to help you, but they sometimes forget – as we all do.
Overdeliver: Start looking at little problems as a challenge or something that will make for a good story. When everything goes swimmingly, the water in uninteresting.
Being fit and healthy is crucial. Every single person in a wheelchair needs to workout and stay healthy. There are many reasons. Making a good first impression, being able to do what you want, having self-confidence, keeping your mind sharp, becoming more successful, being happier, living longer, and most important of all, being independent. If that’s not enough, read this.
As you should know, I’ve only been in a wheelchair for a small fraction of my life. When I was a kid, I was super into skateboarding, then I moved to basketball, after that I got into boxing. Included in the boxing phase came weight lifting. I started getting more and more into it and the next thing I remember is somehow finding myself on stage competing as a bodybuilder, winning my division and best abs, going home with a sticky coating of spray tan and then turning 15 the next week.
Since then, I’ve been working out with a substantial amount of competitions tossed in the mix. I proudly have this website bookmarked.
Although I’m not certified by any means, through experience in the gym, self education and getting plenty of unsolicited advice, I know enough to merit giving advice on going to the gym for the first time in a wheelchair or otherwise.
My first workouts after getting injured were in rehab and more functional than to build muscle, though that’s also an aim. We did a lot of shoulder exercises and lots of reps with lower weight. With my reliable tenacity, I refused to use any weight lower than 9lbs and mostly used 10lbs, which were the highest the weights went. The strength and function that I gained over those 4 weeks in rehab lead to my rapid recovery.
Since I was a little more strength oriented, I was able to muscle my way through most things and figure out how to do it with grace later.
I loved doing any type of workout, most of the time I’d just smile from how great it feels to be working out and sweating. The feeling of progress and growth.
Sadly, when I left rehab, all that bravado and eagerness for the iron had taken an unannounced vacation. I didn’t go to the gym for a while. I didn’t even know how I would do it. I kept telling myself that I would go when I wasn’t as busy. To be honest, and that’s what I always aim to be, I was fucking scared.
I used to be king of the gym. I leg pressed 1000lbs+ when I was in highschool. People used to be amazed that I was 15 when I talked to them at the gym. When I was 17, they thought I was a college student. I grew into it and it became less unique and now I was about to go back in less than agreeable circumstances.
Going to the gym for the first time is a bit intimidating for anyone, but when you’re in a wheelchair it’s a little more so. Since I didn’t feel confident to go back to the gym, the inertia became a vicious cycle. It was’t easy the first few times, feeling like the king that had fallen off.
Even the man was scared to go back to his own kingdom!
I obviously did go to the gym, I adjusted rapidly because I planned out and used the basic tactic that I’ll be describing below.
If you find yourself getting worried or scared about going to the gym, then you’re in the same place I was. I did have a lot of prior knowledge, but all you need to do is watch a few hours of credible videos and you’ll know the fundamentals. Just remember that even me, the guy who was the guy in the gym was scared to go back.
For and before your first time at the gym, there are checklists. They’re pretty much mandatory. Unless you don’t want to make rapid progress, in that case you can just stop reading this.
Before we even get to the gym, we have to wax on and wax off.
We have to do our research. We have to prepare. We have to have a plan. We’re going to cover all that first and then we’ll talk about exactly what to do during our first time in the gym.
Before we begin going to the gym, we need to have a clear goal. Having goals for the gym will motivate you, keep you on track, keep you focused and give you a purpose in the gym.
As a former bodybuilder, I know more than ever that having goals/desired outcomes and a plan is the way to be successful in the gym. If you go in without a plan, you’ll come out without progress.
Here’s what we need to do BEFORE going to the gym:
First, assess what you can do.
What muscle groups can you work out? Any muscles that you have control over can, should, and will be exercised.
Split these muscles into groups
For me, this is Chest, Back, Arms, Shoulders/Traps, and Abs.
Have a clear vision
Next, take a look at yourself and envision what you want to become. Do you want to be stronger? Leaner? More muscular? You have an ideal body image, that’s your goal, and you will reach it.
Write out your goals for each muscle group or workout
Over time, you’ll be raising your goals as you get closer. I like to always keep my goals out of reach so that I keep moving forward. For me, I chose specific workouts for each muscle group and created a weight and rep goal with a timeline.
An example would be to do 50 dips. I started around 25 and every other chest day I would do dips until I dropped and wrote that number down to see how close I was. I reached 50 after about a month.
Find a gym
Now you need to do your homework, find a few gyms nearby, call them and ask them how accessible their facility is.
If you’re deciding between gyms, some important factors are: the weights/machines they have, the entrance/parking lot accessibility, the locker room, and how helpful the staff are (probably the most important).
Do your homework
Once you have a gym to go to, you want to make sure that you show up with some knowledge.
Study the basics of the muscular system. Watch some videos explaining how each of your muscle groups function
You really need to know this because in the gym, we have to get creative and that means using some machinery in an innovative way. The best way I’ve found to be innovative in the gym is to master the fundamentals and after that, I can find unique ways to use anything in the gym to help me in working out a certain muscle group or doing a certain workout.
Here are the fundamentals, though I highly encourage getting more detail from another source.
Chest is a pushing forward motion
Back is a pulling in motion, squeezing your shoulder blades together
Biceps are a curling in motion
Triceps are a pushing out motion
Shoulders are any motion with stiff arms
Traps are a shrugging motion
Abs are a crunching motion
Lower back is a curling of the lower back to lift your torso up
Know your wheelchair
It’s good to know about how your wheelchair reacts to movements as well. An example of when its good to know is the case of doing overhead extensions – having a substantial amount of weight above and behind your head will cause you to tip backwards and fall if you’re not quick to react. The solution is to back up against something so that you can’t tip over.
Knowing how the muscles are exercised means that you can look at anything in the gym and visualize new ways to use it for different muscles. This is absolutely crucial for success in the gym. I’ve been complimented many times for my innovations in the gym.
Learn about the basic workouts
There are going to be at least 10 workouts you can find for each muscle, after seeing those, you’ll be able to sieve through and find the one’s you’ll be capable of doing. It helps to know which workouts exist so you can avoid wasting time discovering them on your own (or never discovering them).
Knowing what machines the gym has will be helpful in figuring out what workouts you can do. I have a list on my phone of all the workouts I can do for each muscle, half of them are unconventional and definitely not the intended purpose.
Build up strength to workout
Once you’ve learned about how the body works, you should really do home workouts. Before going into the gym, you need enough strength to lift the weights, re-rack them, transfer to the machines or benches, and have enough strength to use the machines and weights.
It’s also about safety, you’ll end up hurting yourself if you try to do too much weight, and if you can’t do a lot of weight, you’ll probably do too much just to keep your ego intact.
All you need to do is search for home workouts (normal ones) and then go through them and see which ones you can do or get close to doing. Knee push-ups, crunches, planks, etc.
Pay close attention to form
Once you’ve built up strength, search up the basic workouts such as bench press and learn about proper form. Having proper form is another very important aspect of going to the gym. If your form is bad, you’ll hurt yourself, which could have catastrophic results if you have issues with your back or injure your shoulders.
Don’t go alone
Find a gym partner(s). Ask a friend to come to the gym with you, or if you know someone who goes to the gym, ask to have them join you or if you can join them.
You can go to the gym alone, but it’s much more helpful to go with friends and have people you know at the gym. My first time back at the gym, I went with friends and it really helped me. Correction, *they* really helped me.
This looks like a lot, and it is, but don’t be afraid to choose only the ones that you want to do and add things you think will help. This list is all-inclusive and is meant to help you build up the momentum so that you can smoothly and confidently transition into the gym, if you have gym buddies already or have a favorite gym, then obviously you don’t need to figure that out.
First time at the gym:
This part is important. All of this is important, but when it comes to the first time at the gym, you’ll want to make sure to follow this.
Your first time at the gym, you won’t be working out. Cosmo, you’re crazy! Yes, I believe I am, but for your first time back in the gym, don’t plan on having a full work out.
This is possibly a new gym and even if it isn’t, the circumstances are new.
You will do some exercises, but not a complete workout. Your first time at the gym will be to scope out some potential workouts you can do and learn the lay of the land.
When I first went to the gym, I did a tour of the whole gym, twice. I looked at every machine, then quickly went through each muscle group in my head, and then analyzed what possible workouts I could do. This is why you need to know the basic mechanics of how your muscles work and what workouts exist.
After tour de iron, you and your friends will loop back around to a few promising workouts, maybe the bench press or some machines. Having your friends with you, or a staff member, will not only give you confidence to try some new things, but they’ll help you with transfers or other things. Trying out as much as you can is crucial for you to build up your list of “known-to-work” workouts.
While at the gym, go through your list of muscles that you can (and will) workout. Try to find 1 or 2 workouts for each muscle group. Give each one a try and then move on to the next.
It’s also a good thing to tell your friends about this process before they come with you so that they know that this isn’t going to be a real workout. Having your friends or staff members help you will also add to the creativity, with everyone pitching in ideas.
Take note of what workouts you discovered and for what muscle groups.
Now that you’ve gone through the gym, and you know what workouts you can do, we plan.
Write down each of the muscle groups and the workouts below. This is the foundation for your gym plan.
For each day that you go in, you can now take these workouts, mix them up, and add how many sets and reps of each workout you want to do. It’s much easier to do this when you have an objective.
Remember we talked about goals? For each of these workouts, you need to set a weight, rep, and timeline goal. I prefer using workouts as the goal because they’re very measurable, body weight likewise.
Keep a separate list of those goals and track where you are at least once a week so you can measure your progress.
This is how you’ll motivate yourself in the gym and to keep going back. I like to have end of month goals. I track where I’m at right now and then I’ll have about 3 weeks to reach the next goal.
Now you’re ready to go and dominate at the gym.
And if you want to see some workouts, tips, and trick in action, check out this amazing playlist I found on YouTube. (more will be added).
Immediate action items: Pick the steps you presume you’ll find most helpful, and go through them.
Summary: Lots of things to do before, during, and after your first time at the gym.
Overdeliver: Look at other people in the gym for ideas. Some of my best workouts are from seeing other people doing a workout.