Standing - an activity that able-bodied individuals do many times throughout the day. Why? Standing has many physiological as well as psychological purposes. It allows muscles to lengthen, improves mobility in joints, shifts weight off the ischial tuberosities (sitting bones) and improves extension of the trunk which in turn creates greater capacity and performance of vital organs such as the lungs. Being upright helps to regulate resting muscle tone and therefore can decrease spasticity, it enables eye to eye communication as well as increasing self-confidence and overall self-image. And all of that is just scratching the surface!
Studies of immobilized men without disabilities (e.g. no spinal cord injury etc) have shown that prolonged sitting and immobilization can cause the following complications: decreased bone mineral density, pressure sores, joint contractures, impaired bladder and bowel functioning, impaired lung functioning and an increased risk of gastrointestinal problems.
So how can this be prevented if due to illness and/or disability an individual is unable to stand? Fortunately there are many therapeutic standing devices on the market that provide the benefits of standing whilst allowing for physical difficulties. These devices range from tilt tables to standing frames to wheelchairs (both manual and motorized) that have a stand up function incorporated. Standing wheelchairs allow for the user to experience the health and functional (such as cooking, reaching for high shelves etc) benefits of standing at the press of a button whilst remaining mobile within their environment. There are many varieties of these wheelchairs available allowing for customization to an individual’s needs.
As beneficial as standing is, caution must be exercised especially when an individual has not stood for a prolonged length of time. Complications can occur such as dizziness and fainting (due to blood pressure dropping suddenly) to more serious (and life-threatening) emergencies such as autonomic dysreflexia (a sudden spike in blood pressure) and bone fractures (due to osteoporosis). If an individual has not stood recently, it is recommend that they contact a healthcare professional and/or a rehabilitation facility and request to first use a tilt-table in order to assess their ability to tolerate standing before trying out other standing devices.