Thursday, 26 November 2009

Walking the walk

Today's the day I return to physio at my local hospital. I'm looking forward to it but there are a few things I can't quite understand about this walking business. Learning to walk is not difficult when you're a baby but relearning to walk when you're trapped in the body of a grown up is no picnic.

There are lots of times when I'm sitting down or lying on the settee with my feet elevated, when I think to myself: "I'll just get up and change that CD/grab an apple/pop to the loo". Then I realise I can't. Obviously I haven't lost the instinct to walk but when I eventually get to my feet with a crutch on each arm, I find I can't cast one crutch aside and try to walk forward. I certainly can't do it without any support. For some reason my left leg just won't allow it to have my full weight forced on it. However much I try I simply can't do it. The thought of falling over and breaking my leg again is too awful to contemplate.

So, I'm assuming much of my inability to walk is a psychological block. My heart says it's okay to walk but my brain steps in and overrules it at the last minute. How do you get around that sort of a barrier? I do my exercises and I'm probably one of the world's most determined, stubborn and difficult individuals but this one's got me beaten for now.

Has anyone else reading this blog experienced the same? Any tips for getting back on my feet?


  1. I had a tendon repair on my right ankle, what was supposed to be a 6 week off work turned into 13 weeks because I couldn't progress to a stick. In the end, while I was using two crutches, I would put more weight on my leg which allowed me the confidence to do it more while the crutches supported me in the case of a need to take the weight off again in a hurry.

  2. I'm trying that. I can put some weight on my left leg but for some reason, i can't lift my foot up and move it forward a step without leaning hard on that left crutch. I'll ask the physio to go through it with me. I've had hydrotherapy and I can walk when the water is up to my neck and I'm only 25% weight bearing.

  3. I mentioned in a post a while ago (just before your parole!) about mentaly getting to grips with learning to walk again, not sure if you saw it tho.
    I was non weight bearing for a 6 week period, but luckily only one week was in hospital. When I was allowed to 'walk again' my physio told me to use a set of scales to gauge how much weight I was allowed to put through my leg, felt to my foot! I was built up over a period of months to my full weight in 10 kilo increments. Granted I don't think I ever put the full allowance down (like you say, you heart says do it but your brain calls you all kinds of stupid for trying). The scariest part was when I returned to the hopsital and they told me I didn't need my crutches anymore, so hand them over and walk for us normally! I'm sure you understand my absoloute anticipation to do this and stood there like some idiot had told me to run under the next passing bus! Afraid wasn't in it. But what do you know? I tried a tentative step and it was ok, then another and another and another, I could walk again.... unaided! You can't believe how excited I was the first time I broke into a jog without thinking about it! Although I will never have full motion back in my ankle and still go up hills and stairs on the ball of my foot, I can pretty much do anything I want now, although I won't ever ski again..... I just can't seem to move past that mental barrier (and it wasn't even the reason I had the bone graft in the first place).

    I have every faith that you will go from strength to strength and when you inner demon tells you you can't do it, slap it upside the head and say 'guess what'!

    Put your best foot forward (pun intended) and continue on your road to full recovery XTM
    (BTW your M&S dinner looked lovely and now I'm starving and waiting for my hubby to bring me a manwich for the butchers!!)
    Take Care
    BB x

  4. Thanks BB. That's a really hopeful and useful post. How long did it take from when you first took those scary steps to being able to walk relatively normally with confidence? I know I have a 3cm difference but I'll be wearing a built up shoe and I do have full use of my ankles, hips and knee? x

  5. Hope all goes well with the physio today. I struggle with walking sometimes through arthritis and my legs won't do all I want them to. Sometimes relaxing and then visualising the movement before I do it has helped. Hope you get more insight from your physio session.

  6. Hey Again,
    I was walking around relatively normally at approximately 3 months post op (slower than normal tho with a slight limp - that fear thing again!), which felt like a lifetime especially after effectively reverse bench pressing my own body weight with every step I took while on crutches!! Did I mention it was in the winter and in Bavaria that equates to snow and ice and lots of it!!!
    After around 6 months I had started to do some easy rock climbing, so it is possible to get back to a normalality (and trust me I am definately not of athletic stature, and some may even say that I won't blow over in a strong wind LOL)
    My physio worked hard at rebuilding the wasted muscles in my leg and in his capable hands by the end I could push 100 kilos with my left leg, which ironically has stayed stronger than my good leg!
    That's not to say it doesn't ever hurt or trouble me, it still does from time to time and I'm 4 years post op now. When my ankle or knee (the donor site for the bone) hurts, I put my leg up and rest.
    I noticed you said you are having problems with fluid build up in the lower part of your bad leg, one thing that can help this is the use of orthopeadic thrombosis stockings. I don't know if you have one, but if not I would recommend talking to your doctor to see if you can get one. You should be measured for this when first thing in the morning when the swelling is still minimal. They're not at all attractive, but they can save your life (DVT) and are prettier than a bright purple/blue foot!
    Had my manwich now, so I'm all happy and full (it's a slab of hot roast pork with crackling on a bread bun with sweet mustard!)
    If there's any other questions, just holla! I'll check back again.
    BB x

  7. Thanks, BB. Sandwich sounds good. My swelling has gone down by elevating my legs whenever possible.

  8. I can remember the feeling as if it was yesterday (when in fact it was 35 years ago) and I suffered something similar after the knee replacement 7 months ago. After all this time depending on traction and now on crutches it is difficult to believe that your leg is strong enough. We are programmed to protect the damaged part and when it is something as major as a limb then it is all the more difficult. After I had to give back my crutches I used to offer to take babies out so I could depend on their prams for support! One day you will just do it and then wonder why you couldnt before. Its a bit like learning to ride a bike, or to swim, suddenly it is not an issue. The physios will see you right. Ask lots of questions.

  9. You are doing amazingly well to be up and about on crutches after all that time in traction!
    It is a slow process, getting your mobility back. Especially after a trauma. We used to see it all the time in the oldies who had fractured their hips and had to have major surgery. It is a confidence thing as well as a physial.

    With the help of the physio and understanding your body's need for rest and recuperation, you will get there. Think about how long it takes a baby to get up and about confidently.How many times do they fall over and start again? But, think, they don't just get up on their feet and walk, they start by 'cruising', standing up and using the furniture for support. That is what you are doing with the crutches. Using the needed support.

    Stop being so impatient! That is the fastest way to injury. Go with your body and do what the physio tells you! They know best!

    Took me weeks following the removal of my splint after surgery to get back to vague normality! It is hard but worth it!

    Take care and I hope the physio was okay.

  10. Hi XTM I broke my femur about 20 years ago... and as you already know... it aint easy...gently does it... a little bit at a time.. I was used to climing ladders for a living so I needed to get back on my feet soon... unfortunatly when you have not used your legs for 6 months you have to build the stenth up in your muscules again... you must not force yourself too much.. or you could cause serious problems later.. it took me 6 months to learn to walk and use my legs without support.
    like I said gently does it... take your time, dont put too much stress on your legs.. it will come matey but it takes time... best regards and wishes for a good recovery.

  11. As the guys have said here, it's a slow process & you can't expect to be sprinting before you can walk. I had 7 weeks of plaster then splint after breaking 2 bones in my foot. There is the big psychological wall to climb in believing that you are going to be able to place all your weight on a part of your body that seems so fragile. My job at the time was usually a 10 minute walk from home, once I started walking again it was well over an hour. It takes a while for damaged nerves to start working again. Even after 14 years I still can't balance without a great deal of wobbling on my 'bad' foot although I'm as steady as a rock on the other. It's a lot better than it was, it takes time, patience, sometimes a lot of nerve & definitely plenty of inner strength at times.
    You've made amazing progress, I've been reading your blog for a while but not commented before. You can do it & don't forget all the supportive vibes heading your way from around the world, they are with you every step you take x

  12. XTM, to help you get passed the psychological block, may I suggest a book by Susan Jeffers, Feel the fear and do it anyway. It's got some good reviews on Amazon.

    A couple of our library copies have gone it's quite popular!

    Pilates is excellent for improving strength and posture, but in a gentle way. Physios at our hospital incorpotate it into patient rehabilitation so you could ask your physio whether it would help you.

    Take it'll know when you feel able to throw those darned crutches aside.

    Best wishes,

  13. Oh XTM, so you're already able to walk in the water! That's good. So you know eventually you'll be able anew to do it on land as well. Probably like a seal initially. Best wishes and lot of perserverance. Per aspera ad astra, as they say. Barbara (Styria)

  14. Physio was just an assessment. I managed to put 50% of my weight on my bad leg and my muscles are quite good, all things considered. I was even praised for the quality of my walking on crutches so I think I should be very encouraged. However, nothing encourages me like coming back home and Reading such warm, supportive and caring people. It's as if I have a small army of global consellors. I simply can't thank you all enough for being there and giving me such support and lift, especially during my darker moments.

    My doctor and family would like me to have some counselling but it's almost impossible on the NHS. and yet you, dear friends, seem to be helping me in coming to terms with what happened.

    Thank you all so much. X

  15. Sorry about my typing... serves me right for using a mobile with a tiddly on-screen keyboard. :-)

  16. Hi there
    Completely different to what you're going through, but I have MS and in a year have gone from having no symptoms to being basically wheelchair bound - can walk a couple of yards very slowly and shaky sometimes, but not consistently or safely.

    I know exactly what you mean about the brain part. As I sit here I think I'll just get something out of the fridge or just pop to the loo, then I stand up and remember I can't do it.

    Likewise I'm convinced a lot of it is in my brain not letting me walk - which with ms is sort of is. And most of the time my legs are quite strong. If I have a spell when I really think I can do it, I stand up, take a few deep breaths, try to visualise in my mind what I think walking is like, and then very slowly and very exaggeratedly take a couple of good quality steps. Even if it doesn't always work, or last for long, it does my self esteem a power of good.

    Good luck to you!!!!

  17. I am so touched that so many people want to help you... I'd love to but have no experience at all with what you are going through. Just accept my good wishes and let your body heal itself in its own good time.
    Love reading not just your posts but all the comments. The world is a good place if you know where to look. x

  18. TM, Could the psychological block also be a lack of confidence in yourself, this does happen and causes your brain to persuade you about the "what iff`s ".

    Like ,what if I fall and cause more damage, what if I find that I can`t etc.

    Give it time ,and you will find you are fed up with the what iff`s and find inner strength through determination, and suddenly you will just go for it, sort of like proving to yourself that you can, then you will be very supprised and confident again.


  19. i didn't have quite the same as you I had an op on my back, but I think the main thing that sticks for everyone after an op is find patience from somewhere and don't overdo it otherwise it will set you back mentally as well as physically. My son however did have the same as you and now 8 years later it is quite remarkable what he gets up to. My other son said the other day that he felt he had to "keep up" and that he had sometimes done things he would never have done of his own volition, purely because he couldn't let Mike down! God help us when you are back on par, being a determined person can literally mean the world is your oyster. I think Mrs XTM will need more patience then.
    Keep up the good work but steadily!
    Love to you all

  20. Once you're able to weight-bear, I suggest you'd find trekking poles useful (sometimes called nordic poles). I rave about them on my relearning to walk with MS site. They allow your upper body to take up probably 30% of the effort of walking, and (importantly for me) always save you from tripping over. Best wishes, KB