How to Regain Leg Strength After Hospitalization

How to Regain Leg Strength After Hospitalization
You may need to go to physical therapy to regain strength. (Image: Wavebreakmedia/iStock/GettyImages)

A prolonged hospital stay often causes weakness in the legs, as you lose approximately one percent of your lean muscle mass each day you stay in a bed. Decreased muscle mass and weakness increases your risk of sprains and fractures.

If your legs weaken to the point that you have trouble standing or walking, consult your health care professional for a personalized leg-strengthening program. Regular leg-strengthening exercises allow you to begin regaining strength almost immediately.

Take it slow. Many of the initial gains you experience while strengthening your legs after a hospital stay are neuromuscular in nature, meaning your muscles and brain are relearning how to communicate.

Range-of-Motion Exercises

Start range-of-motion exercises in a seated or lying position, depending on your strength, before you try standing. Start by pulling your knee toward your chest until you feel a stretch. Turn onto your stomach and raise your leg backward as high as possible. Next, stretch the muscles around the knee by straightening and bending your knee as far as possible.

Execute range of motion exercises for your ankles by pointing your toes, pulling your toes toward your head and writing the alphabet using only ankle motions.

Standing Movements

Practice standing up from a seated position with the help of another person and some form of walking assistance device, such as a walker, cane or crutches. Gradually increase the length of time you stand as you gain leg strength, walking as far as you can without feeling winded or too fatigued. Always have a friend or therapist follow you with a wheelchair so you have a place to sit if necessary.

Reduce your dependence on assistive walking devices gradually by placing less and less weight on the device as you walk and practice standing exercises.

Improving Strength

Strengthen the muscles in your legs while using an assistive device by standing on one leg, raising up on your tip toes, extending each leg forward, backward, across your other leg and out to the side while you balance on the other leg. Perform shallow knee bends in which you do not bend your knees more than 15 to 20 degrees.

Add light resistance to your leg-strengthening exercises, such as that provided by a resistance band. Increase the resistance you use as your legs become stronger by slowly adding resistance in the form of weights on a weight machine.

Always have a chair behind you when performing leg-strengthening exercises to ensure you have a place to sit if your legs can no longer support your body weight.

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