Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Standing As Therapy

imagesThe human body is not designed for prolonged sitting. Office workers and truck drivers know what I mean. But at least they are able to stand up and move around before and after work and during breaks. Not so much with us wheelchair users.

Besides looking up at the world all day, which is bad enough, it turns out that sitting wreaks havoc on our bodies. This is in addition to the havoc being wreaked on us by whatever prevents our standing in the first place. Cruel irony. The list includes problems with joints, spinal alignment, respiration, digestion, spasticity, skin sores, and much more.

I recently met a new MS friend, Darcy, who lives just down the street. She is a wonderful lady whose disease course is quite similar to mine. I stopped over to visit with her a couple of weeks ago. As is typical with disabled people that I meet, we compared notes to see what we could learn from one another. Darcy and her husband have acquired some cool adaptive equipment. One item is an EasyStand 5000, pictured to the right. This is a type of device called a standing frame, which allows disabled individuals to elevate themselves to an upright position for some period of time. I like to refer to this as therapeutic standing.

Here’s a link that describes some of the health benefits of assisted, therapeutic standing.

These units cost upwards of $2500 new – a serious amount of cash. But Darcy’s husband obtained most of her disability equipment from Craigslist.com. Inspired by him, I logged on and found a slightly used EasyStand 5000, about two hours away, for only $600. Kim and I drove to New Hampshire and picked it up. In doing so, we met a very nice disabled man and his wife. Of course, I compared notes with the gentleman in the wheelchair, but Kim compared at least as many notes with his wife – notes about how to take care of occasionally stubborn, but strikingly handsome men in wheelchairs.

Below is a demonstration of how the standing frame works. There is a lever arm that I operate with my right hand in order to raise the seat up. At first, I didn’t think I would have enough strength. However, I learned that if I make very small movements with the lever arm I can ever so slowly raise myself up. Kim could do it twice as quickly for me, but I like accomplishing this myself.


There is a tray where I can place items to keep me entertained while I am in the standing frame. This is critical. As is the case with any piece of exercise equipment (which is essentially what this device is for me), the most likely outcome is that I’ll use it faithfully for a few weeks or months, then use it sporadically for a few more weeks or months, then I’ll put it on craigslist and brag to everyone if I’m able to get a better price than I paid for it. I don’t want that to happen.

Here’s a picture of me in full relaxation mode in my EasyStand 5000. I have everything I need: remote controls for all of my A/V devices, my iPad mini, and a glass of Pinot Noir. I’m up to 25 minutes and one glass of wine per standing session now. My goal is to stand up long enough to get drunk enough that I can’t stand up anymore.

I sense there is a flaw in my plan, but I can’t quite put my finger on it.


  1. How do you get from the w/c to the standing machine? Don't your legs still get tired, even though they're supported? Can you do this totally alone or do you need assistance? Can you transport it to say parties where people are standing? Am I asking too many questions?
    Seriously, it looks like a great tool. I'm not permanently in a w/c -- yet, but it's good to know about this machine!

  2. Muff,

    Good questions!

    The transfer from my wheelchair to the standing machine is tricky. Right now I need Kim to help me. She doesn't have to do any heavy lifting, but she needs to help get my feet in the right place at the right time, etc. These new transfers often become easier with time. It's possible, but not certain, that eventually I'll figure out a way to transfer without her help.

    Yes, my legs still get tired. But remember, there's nothing wrong with my leg muscles except lack of use, and the fact that the signal from my brain to my legs is interrupted. I find that in the standing position my leg muscles do make an effort, if only a small one. So I think that by using this standing frame I may be able to improve muscle tone in my legs, which can't be a bad thing. Note, however, that many people using these devices have zero control of their leg muscles, and still benefit from simply being upright for a period of time, even if they're not improving their legs' muscle tone.

    I have no plans to use this device in social situations. I don't think it would lend itself to making healthy people feel at ease with me. At best, I may use it when I have company in my house if they seem interested in learning about this kind of thing.

    And no, you're not asking too many questions. Keep them coming.


  3. Oh brother, can I ever relate to your comment about the fading of exercise equipment use! I have a great recumbent bike in my bedroom that is sad and lonely most of the time. I keep thinking I'm putting my back out on it but that's probably not right--more likely it's from lack of moving my back that's doing it.

    I laughed so hard at your standing drunk section that everyone in the room is looking at me. And I'm in a beauty salon so that's a lot of people!
    Thanks, Mitch

  4. I want one. I'm searching on Cl, but let me know when you are stuck with yours and I'll offer you $250 for it!

  5. Mitch, can you stand at all - even for a few seconds - on your own? I can't, but if this machine does ALL the work, my butt would welcome the occasional reprieve.

  6. I didn't know you had such a thing, hope you get some use from it, at least when your drinking wine. Carole

  7. Daphne,

    It's not only exercise equipment. It's also small appliances. Years ago I twisted my wife's arm to buy me a bread maker for Christmas, back when countertop bread makers were the newest thing. I made exactly one loaf.


    Keep searching on craigslist. One of these is certain to show up. You'll be the first person I call when I eventually tire of my standing frame.


    I can stand unassisted for like, literally, one second. I can lean up against a counter, for example, for maybe 10 seconds. Yes, this machine does all the work if you need it to. I bought it from a paraplegic gentlemen with a spinal cord injury.


    It's in your bedroom.