Wheelbarrow walking is not for every child

Wheelbarrow Walking is a common activity used to develop shoulder strength in kids with low tone and muscle weakness. It is also used to give kids, who are extra active i.e. sensory seekers, a way to get the input they are craving. Wheelbarrow walking; however, is not for all kids. Kids with diagnoses like Cerebral Palsy or who have a Brachial Plexus Injury may not have the stability in the shoulder to take part in such a complex exercise.

Wheelbarrow Walking is only to be used when the child’s scapula, or triangle bones at the shoulder, do not lift upwards as the child holds a stationary wheelbarrow walk position. When in the wheelbarrow walk position your child’s upper back should be flat. If your child’s back looks like the picture ie scapula bones stick out, a formal assessment may be needed.

Winging Scapula

Winging Scapula

Only when the joint is in proper alignment i.e. scapulas do not wing, should a parent use wheelbarrow walking to help strength a child’s shoulder. Parents of children with low tone, brachial plexus injury or hemiplegia should consult a pediatric occupational or physical therapist prior to using this exercises.

Wheelbarrow Walking starts with the child lying face down on the floor with their arms at the shoulder. The child then straightens the arms, pushing their body off the floor (This is the time to double-check the upper back).  The child is the “wheelbarrow”.  The parent then lifts the child’s hips, thighs or feet up to a comfortable level for the child.  The child then tries to walk forward on the hands. The child’s back should be horizontal to the ground. Start by holding the child at the thighs and move toward holding the child’s feet. If the child’s back is curved downward move your support back to the thighs. If you are still struggling to understand the position, google images provides a ton of pictures of kids wheelbarrow walking.  If your child complains of pain, looks uncomfortable or you are unsure ask your child’s doctor, therapist or gym teacher for advice.

Many attempt to eat right, it’s also important to exercise right.

Here is a great blog: Unintended Consequences of Wheelbarrow Walking in BPI & Hemiplegia http://www.karenpapemd.com/index.php/unintended-consequences/

3 thoughts on “Wheelbarrow walking is not for every child

  1. The exercise can be done if the child is ready for it..hence the evaluation done by therapists. It is foolish to do this if not assessed properly. The principles used are: Mobility then stability then movement. If the child does not have the right mobility in their bodies and joints then they will have problems doing the stabilization aspect of the activity. If they can not do the stabilization then they can not do the movement. This is where the therapist has to come in and provide you with corrective exercises to answer any deficiencies in any area of the movement. Be careful about just basing it from how your child feels and looks, a child’s enthusiasm for the movement may overcome this. When it comes to movement, the body will sacrifice quality versus quantity..becuase it wants to move. Good luck.

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