easy tips to avoid big expense.
Lift chairs - sometimes necessary but often purchased prematurely, these special pieces of furniture
can further weaken patients.
I've been seeing home health care patients since 1994 and have seen numerous lift chairs weaken some,
not all, of my patients.
How? Being able to stand from a sitting surface requires leg muscle power and strength.
These muscles are some of the first to weaken as we age.
When looking at this task, we need to focus on power and strength. Power is your ability to generate
force quickly where as strength reveals the amount of power you can generate period. We can get more
detailed with strength definitions however, for the purpose of avoid lift chairs, we need to simply
strength our bodies!
Several other items need to be kept in mind when working on mastering the sit to stand task without
having to purchase expensive lift chairs.
What to keep in mind
Gravity is always pulling us down. You can take advantage of the strength you do have by simply
raising your chair, couch or bed up on 4X4 inch blocks.
- Make your own
Cut a 4X4 in about 8 inch lengths. Scoop out a 'resting' indentation for the chair or bed
leg to sit in. Place the block longways in the same direction of the most force generated.
i.e. if you are raising a bed, lay the block longways from left to right. This will decrease
your chances of rolling the block when getting into bed. vs. longways from top to bottom which
could easily roll when the force of getting into bed shifts the bed frame and roll your blocks over.
- Recliner Chairs
When raising your lift chair you may need to use long lengths of 4X4's or even cement blocks.
Recliner chairs tend to be built on frames instead of legs. Putting your 4X4's under the frame
changes your recliner into a lift chair!
You should now be able to get in and out of your chair easier. The higher the surface is that your trying to
get out of or off of, the less your legs have to work to LIFT you off that surface.
It is also true the the higher the surface is, the harder it could be to get onto it whether a bed,
a chair or a couch. Keep this in mind.
Since we've fixed the immediate problem of getting up, now let's look at the longer term solution of
how to get out of a chair (without lift chairs).
How to get out of a chair
Sitting from Standing
When sitting in a chair, your body weight is 12"-14" behind your quads! Pushing on your legs in this position will only push you further BACK into the chair
So - SCOOT forward. Either hike your hips forward one at a time till you are sitting on the edge of the bed or push your upper back into the back of the chair to get your butt scooting forward.
Since the quad muscle do most of the lifting when getting out of a chair, it's important that you lean your body weight over your quads.
This is critical... so much so that most of my patients have heard me say over and over again, "nose over toes." For some this can be a scary task for fear of falling forward and out of their chair but it is critical and crucial to the success of the task. Without leaning the upper body forward, the body weight remains behind the quads.
- Feet back
Now, slide your feet back to a comfortable spot towards the chair. This places your feet UNDER your legs. If you keep your feet out where they likely were, you are in the same position you were when sitting back in the chair. Those feet are what will support you, get them under the load they are about to lift.
- Nose over toes
If you don't have chair arms, you can put your arms on your thighs and push yourself up.
With your nose over toes, now grasp the arms of the chair and push down while trying to lift your butt up towards the ceiling. This allows your body weight to come over your quad muscles, keeps your nose over toes and helps you accomplish the task!
- One Arm, Two Arms
Once standing but while still holding onto the chair arms, place one hand on your walker (if needed) and then the next one on the walker.
- Stand Tall
Remember, however, that standing close to your chair with your legs touching is cheating when doing your home exercise program!
Since your feet are close to the chair, couch or bed take advantage of the fact that your legs may be touching the chair still and your can steady yourself a bit before walking. Stand as tall as you can to stretch your legs, hips and back!
- You made it!
Now that you know how to stand up correctly, turn this into an exercise to strengthen your sit to stand muscles. Set a goal to do 10-20 in a row! Beware, though, if you do, you may not have to purchase any lift chairs!
Now that you can stand up, reverse this process to sit down gently and safely.
- Back up
Back up till both legs touch the chair.
- One Hand, Then Two
Reach one hand back to grab one chair arm, now reach the other hand back to the other chair arm.
- Nose over toes
Keeping your nose over your toes, use your arms to gently lower yourself down into the chair. Don't crash. Crashing makes you weak and can compression fractures in your spine.
Lift chairs do have their place but are often purchased prematurely - at a price to your pocketbook and to your
strength. Pushing yourself a bit every day, even every hour to stand up and sit down will strengthen your legs
in no time. Strength is a green alternative to forking out your limited dollars on lift chairs!
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