Bringing “The Gym” into Rehabilitation – Strength-training and cardiovascular benefits of therapy ropes

June 9, 2015

When most patients are utilizing a wheelchair for mobility, their typical “cardio” exercises are limited to hand bikes or hand weights. Strengthening interventions for the upper body include those same hand weights, resistive bands, or cable machines. After a while, these exercises can become repetitive and frankly, boring.
Introducing the therapy ropes. These heavy, nylon ropes look like something found in a shipyard. However, more recently, they are seen in community gyms and fitness centers for upper body strengthening and cardio-conditioning.
What about taking that tool and throwing it into rehabilitation? Helen Hayes Hospital prides itself on utilizing new, dynamic, and cutting edge equipment for its patients. When someone sustains an injury, whether an amputation, spinal cord injury, or nerve disease, that person requires a strong upper body and good endurance to assist with their rehabilitation, which may not be possible on a treadmill or reclined bike. Utilizing the therapy ropes accomplishes both goals: building strength in the arms while conditioning the heart and lungs. Plus the ropes help instill a fun, fitness atmosphere into therapy, rather than feeling like a hospital.
The ropes can also be highly time-efficient. Depending on the diameter of the rope, a patient can quickly elevate one’s heart rate and fatigue the upper body in a short amount of time. For example, in the picture below, a brief burst of alternating waves for 1-minute is enough to create a challenging workout. As a result, the patient feels immediate results plus a sense of accomplishment from a quick, vigorous session. You can also see a demo of the rope workout on our YouTube video:
The ropes will serve the patients of Helen Hayes Hospital as another dynamic and fun option among their therapy tools.
– John Ficucello, PT
Physical Therapy Supervisor, Spinal Cord Injury & Amputee Rehabilitation Service