How Do I Choose Proper Rehab Equipment?

After an injury, surgery, or for overall good health choosing the proper equipment is an important step for rehab or exercise. Each injury or activity has a specific need to target a specific muscle or group of muscles. By using the proper equipment, we can rehab safer and more effective than without. We all know the saying “the right tool for the right job,” that has never been more appropriate than with rehab equipment. Sometimes immediately after surgery we will need equipment that aids us with our range of motion and strengthening, whereas later in the rehabilitation process the addition of resistance or additional weight can help strengthen injured areas or muscles. Of course, your physician or therapist should be consulted before beginning or modifying any rehabilitation program.

What Factors Should I Consider?

If we are going to choose the right tool for the right job, we obviously need to know what that job is. While some equipment can be used for multiple purposes, it’s important to know which ones are the most effective for your rehabilitation. A consultation with a physical therapist is probably the best way to determine what piece of equipment would benefit you the most. Elastic bands can be used to add resistance to the upper and lower body. Ankle weights can double as additional weight on your wrists to strengthen arms and shoulders. Also, higher resistances or more weight may not be appropriate for the beginning of a rehab program. It’s always smarter (and safer) to start lower and gradually increase resistance/weight. Sometimes an innovative approach can adapt one piece of equipment to multiple body parts, but the most important piece of information we can have is knowing what our injuries are and the proper exercises we need to do to help ourselves heal.

Upper Body Exercises

If you are recovering from an injury to your upper body, there are numerous options to choose from. Common upper body injuries include shoulder surgeries, torn or strained bicep/tricep injuries, or even sprains to the wrist or other joints. A great way to rehab/exercise shoulder injuries are the use of elastic bands and pulley systems. These are simple and convenient and can be used in the house or at a rehab center. The Thera–Band Shoulder Pulley System is a great example of equipment that would benefit someone with a shoulder injury. It is specifically designed to assist patients recovering from shoulder injuries to regain their range of motion and strength. It features a unique rope divided into sections by black marks to give immediate visual feedback on progress. It gives therapists and other practitioners a mechanism for directing patients with clear and accurate instructions. It anchors to any doorjamb and has comfortable foam handles. Thera–Band, as well as other manufacturers like Bodysport, Fitter International, and Valeo, all offer elastic bands (in different resistances) for adding resistance to your workout. Pedal exercisers can be used effectively to help with arm rotations. In the same way we would pedal a bike, these pedal exercisers can be adapted to a tabletop for use with our arms. For a more effective rehab program, the Endorphin Cycle Table Platform System can be utilized from a seated position or even incorporated to be used with a wheelchair. It can add resistance and even be programmed for a custom workout. Dumbbells are great piece of equipment to help with strengthening of upper body muscle groups. In addition to dumbbells, ankle weights can be worn on the wrists and incorporated into range of motion exercises that can strengthen and injured area. For exercises that utilize pools and water resistance, Excel Sports offers AquaJogger DeltaBells Water Resistance Hand Buoys and wrist cuffs. They help tone and strengthen the upper body while exercising in the pool. For hand rehab, Sammons offers latex – free elastic bands while Meddev offers a hand exerciser that utilizes small elastic bands in varying resistances.

Lower Body Exercises

After an injury to our lower body, choosing the right equipment is the first step in the right direction. Whether the injury is to the hip, knee, or ankle/foot many pieces of equipment can be adapted to facilitate our healing. Since our lower body is a key component to our mobility, it is important to maintain our range of motion and strength in that area. Along with mobility, our lower body is the core of our stability and keeping this area strong reduces the risk of injuries from falls. Exercises using elastic bands can help regain range of motion and strengthen atrophied (weakened) muscle groups. A great way to regain and maintain our leg’s range of motion is a stationary exercise bike. A pedal exerciser is a simple way to exercise your legs. Battle Creek manufactures a pedal exerciser that is portable and easy to use. Sammons offers a pedal exerciser with a LED display that shows speed, distance, and calories burned. For a more thorough and in-depth rehab program, Kettler USA offers an Ergo Race Exercise Bike. This offers computer-controlled programs and heart rate monitoring that gives the user input on data like: speed, RPM, distance, energy consumption, and pulse rate. Since walking is one of the best exercises for us, the addition of ankle weights can increase the effectiveness of this activity. Care should be taken to start with lightweights and increase gradually with the approval of your doctor or therapist. To increase our stability the incorporation of a balance pad or ball might be useful. The Airex Balance Pad is a good example of equipment that can restore and maintain motor skills and balance. It increases strength, stamina, differentiation, and coordination. American 3B Scientific offers a full line of balance boards to help with lower body coordination and strengthening. For exercising/rehab in the pool Aqua cuffs are a great way to add resistance and strengthen injured/weakened areas.

Additional Information

When purchasing rehab/exercise equipment, common sense should be our number one consideration. Make sure you consult your doctor or physical therapist to tailor a program that you can follow at home and is appropriate for your level of injury. Be creative and have fun so that this equipment doesn’t end up collecting dust or just holding up laundry. The equipment is only as effective as the person using it.


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