Forty-seven years ago when I was mastering the art of walking I was cute, daring and most importantly, closer to the ground.
(And lots of Italians with big hands were there to pick me up if I fell.)
Re-learning to walk at mid-life is a whole different ball game. I’ve forgotten how normal walking happens. Sure my DBS brace keeps my foot flexed and holds me up in space, but I’ve got some pretty weak muscles from lack of use.
In the beginning, it felt wobbly and weird when I attempted to traverse a room. But after two months of brace training, here’s what I’ve learned:
- My brace gives me more overall stability but no ankle mobility.
- When my knee moves, my ankle responds and vice versa.
- But because of the stability, I have perfect alignment again.
- Alignment is the foundation of good movement.
- My hip is above my knee which is above my ankle.
- My pelvis is symmetrical again.
- This brought my spine, ribs, sternum, clavicles and shoulders back into alignment as well.
- Now that everything back where it’s supposed to be I can use muscles that have been dormant for years.
- The tweaking you need after you receive your brace is just as important as the brace itself. John has done the following:
- Added more and then less padding.
- Lifted the shoe on my non-braced foot to ensure that I stand evenly in both.
- Shaved millimeters off the brace in the back so it can slip into my shoe more easily.
- Recorded my gait so that I could better understand my new method of walking.
- Seeing how I walked was key.
- It’s been so long since my gait was normal my proprioception was, and still is, lacking as a feedback tool.
- Because my entire left side is weak, pumping my arms, bilaterally, is damn near impossible. Irene Lyon, a physiotherapist and nervous system specialist suggested that I take arm movement out of it. Instead she told me to clasp my hands and work on moving my shoulders instead.
- This has made my walking smoother and allowed my shoulders and core to be more involved in the process.
- Finding a good cobbler that also knows how to help clients with orthopedic needs is crucial. Chris has been a terrific.
- When I take off the brace at the end of the day my leg feels restless, twitches, and often will go into flexion independently.
- Likewise I can independently flex my foot with more ease than before.
- Myofascial release therapy has increased my range of motion and decreased pain throughout my entire left side.
- Prior to receiving my brace, massage felt great but the results wouldn’t last more than a day.
- Now my sessions are “sticking” and building on one another.
- I can now stand on my feet for 2 hours without taking a “sit break”.
- I can negotiate crowded rooms, walk across parking lots, and run small errands without a cane.
- My quadricep is getting stronger and my knee doesn’t lock as much anymore.
- I now get mild calf cramping on my weak side which is exciting. After years of never activating certain muscles, it’s nice to get then back into play again.
- I’ve noticed a slight increase in hamstring activation.
- My core is getting stronger as well.
- I can bear more weight in my left arm when doing yoga poses.
- Due to increased strength, flexibility and proprioception on my left side, when I take the brace off, I walk a little better then I did a few months ago in bare feet. This has been very unexpected.
The biggest change is that I can now walk 5000 steps in a day! Prior to my DBS I would average about 5000 steps per week and that’s only because I would be able to walk longer distances while pushing a cart through Target or Wegmans. Days that I stayed home I only averaged about 400 steps total.
I’ve yet to walk 5000 steps in a row without stopping, but I can accumulate them throughout the day. (I’m seriously out of shape due to years of sitting on my ass, but I’m slowing getting stronger.)
My goals for month three are:
- Walking more outside on uneven surfaces.
- Trying to get a studio shoe made to wear my brace to a yoga class.
- Doing more yoga in general (with & without the brace).
- Stop being so afraid
- After years of tripping, having to miss out and doing very little I’m finding that my default setting is still very fear based.
- Fear has kept me safe but it’s definitely getting in the way of curiosity and joy.
If you want to know how month 1 went with my DBS click here.
Here is an updated video on how things have been going so far:
Post 4 of my journey can be found here.