Wednesday, May 4, 2011

I am a backward walking Superstar

I had my first real day of Physical Therapy yesterday. ( my evaluation was the week before). I think I am going to love this.

We are starting with pool-based therapy, as my left ankle tendinitis is pretty bad and they want to get some weight off the leg while we get better joint stability.

The person who will be my regular therapist was out sick, but my substitute was good. I am the first EDS client they have had, but both of the therapists had heard about it, had done some reading up and were willing to listen and learn. This therapist was especially patient and did not make fun as I asked lots of questions and needed extra feedback about body position ( who knew "shoulder-width apart" was only about 6 inches, not 18??

Pool Therapy to start is a treadmill built into the bottom of a warm pool. There is a video camera by my legs, with a monitor at eye level, so you can walk in the pool and both you and the Therapist can see what your lower half is doing.

Turns out my gait is a mess, and I walk backwards. Even when going forward.

A good gait has you dorsiflex ( lift from the toe) your foot, extend your leg with your knee slightly bent and land heel first, with the weight then rolling through your foot to your toes. The impetus for this action actually comes from the push of the back leg that is rolling off the toes from its step. This video shows it much better than I could describe.

My gait? I was walking by extending my foot forward, landing on my toe, rolling through the heel and pulling my body forward. I was also twisting my trunk too much side to side, using my trunk muscles to help move me forward and bypassing my hip stabilizing muscles.

The closest I can come to a video to show this is this video of shod horses walking. Apparently it is common for a shod horse to have the same gait problem and land toe first, injuring themselves.

Who knew?

The one piece of good news is that toe first is the correct way to walk when stepping backwards and I am a backward walking superstar ;-)

The theory is that this developed as a coping mechanism for unstable foot/ankle/knee/hip joints at some point and was probably aggravated when I spent a couple of years off and on crutches in middle school/early high school.

This is the biggest reason that I am a trip hazard. Apparently, if I can fix this, I will not only injure tendons less, but will be less of a klutz. Even stepping sideways, I found myself stepping out and pulling myself to the extended leg. I could feel my ankle joint rolling and aching. When I consciously corrected this and pushed off, I landed the extended foot solidly and no ankle rolling.

Walking the "right" way? Feels incredibly ODD. Actually, it feels like I am going to fall on my face...but apparently that is a normal sensation, and triggers the brain to walk and step forward-- and most people got over this sensation at about 12 months and now their brain does not even register it.

Besides just thinking about it, normally you would do calf stretches to stretch out the Achilles. However, that normal stretch motion just shifts my feet and ankles around and does not touch my Achilles much. That may be a challenge I have to take to Dr. Lavallee in June and see if he has a better answer.

Monday, May 2, 2011

I may have EDS, but I have a life, too...

I know this blog is supposed to be my "EDS Blog" , but the truth is while EDS impacts all facets of my life, I still have a life. if you read just this blog, you might think. Wow.. what a horrible struggle. But the truth is, I am finding ways to gracefully bend and work around them and still get projects done.

Because I was dealing with so many medical issues last fall ( before we understood what this is and how to work with it), my gardens got seriously neglected. No last fall cleanup, no trimming of the perennials, just a mess this spring.  I lost a few plants, but most everything survived.

I have a favorite shaded garden at the end of my clothesline.  This is what it looked like before the clean up:

Kind of a scary mess, eh?

Now here is what it looks like AFTER the cleanup. 

long view( lots of daylillies to the left)

I uncovered the hastas, coneflower , coreopsis and daisy starts that were buried.
The ostrich ferns in the back, I transplanted from a too sunny spot. 

newly planted cinnamon fern

First Trillium Leaf uncovered

Was this just as fast and easy as  it would have been even 3 years ago? Not at all. But I have figured out the work arounds for several reasons. 

  1.  Sanity. Keeping as normal as possible helps me and the rest of the family balance. I know days when my pain is worse and I am hitting the  ice packs and meds harder, it has an impact on the whole family. When I can have a fairly normal life, it is better for us all. 
  2. Stress Relief.  i am probably an oddball, but getting my hands in the dirt is almost meditative for me, it helps me relax, calm and ripping out weeds is very satisfying ;-)  Afterward, although I am tired, I feel calmer, and the aches do not hit me as hard. I know this is helping to lower the norepinephrine in my system, which lowers my body and brain reactions to the pains I have. 
  3. Strength building. Ok, sitting on my butt is not exactly aerobic, but there is muscular strength used in pulling weeds and digging holes  (especially when shovels are involved)  that works muscles I do not work in many other ways. Any activity is good activity. 
So how am I managing it?

  1. Don't rush. It takes me longer than it used to. I pace myself.  I do not try to do half a dozen projects in one day. 
  2. Take breaks. It used to be I would dive into a project  like this and not come up for air until it was done. Now, I take breaks. As many as I need, and I do not let myself feel bad or guilty about it. 
  3. Switch it up.  In a project like this, there are lots of different things to do. Some mean I sit, some mean I stand. Some are pulling, some are digging.  Rather than tackling all the sitting task at once, I switch it up.  10 minutes or so in a position, then find something to do that requires me to work different parts of my body. This lets me last 2-3 times as long as I would if I pushed just one position and then got hurt. 
  4. Ice is my friend. When I take a break, I strategically place cold packs for 5-15 minutes. Every little bit helps. When I can prevent some inflammation early, I can last longer. 
  5. Get help. For me, right now the worst part of garden work are things that require bending over and picking up repetitively.  Things like the aftermath cleanup and picking up piles of weeds and litter and getting them to the compost kills me. So, I  recruit help for those pieces. Instead of holding onto stubborn determinism and injuring myself, taking me down and out for longer, I try to delegate out the tasks that I know will be problems.   Luckily I am blessed to have a household of helpful hands. 

I hope this gives you a better view of me as a whole person, and not just my battles/strategies with EDS.  If you want to see more of my garden projects, you can check out my normal Geek/Gardening blog.  If you just want to page through some other pictures of garden/yard projects, you can page through the Picasa album.: