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Following a neurologic injury, some people experience a leg that feels stiff, heavy, or both. This can make walking difficult.  In this video, you will learn the best exercise routine to relearn how to lift the leg more efficiently and minimize the sensation of having a “heavy leg”.

What causes the leg to feel stiff? 

Damage to the neurologic system can cause two problems that significantly impact the body’s ability to move. These are spasticity and abnormal synergy patterns. Spasticity, an involuntary muscle contraction, in the quadriceps (muscles that straighten the knee) can make the knee difficult to bend while walking. This can cause the leg to feel like it is stuck to the ground. An abnormal synergy pattern can also cause the knee to want to stay locked out straight. Both of these movement problems can make the leg feel heavy and make walking difficult

What are the best exercises for a stiff or heavy leg? 

The best place to start is lying down with the knees bent. Starting with the knees bent will make it easier to lift the leg. Lying down, can help the body to stay more relaxed and may minimize the impact of the abnormal muscle synergy and spasticity noted above. 

heavy leg exercise 1

Next, try starting with the leg starting from a more extended position. 

heavy leg exercise 2

If that is too difficult, you might want to try using the core max to assist

Next, you can move on to trying to bring the leg forward in standing. Use something under your foot to make it easier to bring forward. I recommend a mini skateboard

Once you can bring the leg straight forward, try adding a step

step up exercise for a stiff leg

Once you can lift the leg up onto a small step, try working the end range of hip flexion

end range hip flexion exercise

One final recommendation that I have is to use a tool to help you work on lifting the leg while walking. A resistance band belt can significantly help to “normalize” your walking pattern if you have a heavy leg. 

assisted hip flexion exercise

 

 

 

 

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