Learning How to Walk Again

Well, this IS a surprise! For the past several days when I try to cross my legs, I need to physically lift my right leg to cross over my left knee. Hmm?? I really MUST be a slug?! Okay… I know my lower body strength is not the greatest; I know I haven’t been very active this last year waiting to see what could be done to fix my back? But I HAVE been out walking albeit not my usual number of steps but I have been out walking. I’ve even been to the gym using both the elliptical machines as well as the stationary bikes. But I confess… I only go for the endorphin boost. I LOVE that endorphin high!

Walking now, I am getting more steps than before the surgery; that is a good sign, right? And yet, I’m waking up in the middle of the night with shin pain more so than even back pain. From the increase in walking, I presume? This must be muscle pain?

And then I had this explained… My L5 pinched nerve was causing not only radiculopathy (nerve pain) but also muscle atrophy of the muscles L5 controls. Whew! It isn’t my lack of exercise that is causing leg weakness. It is those damn nerves! Who knew this would happen??

Now that those nerves are no longer compressed because of the spine surgery, they are sending signals for my muscles to work again but… those muscles have atrophied. They are sore now from lack of use.

Ahh… That explains that when I try to walk, I end up “shuffling”. I like to think of it as “ice-skating”… I’m “gliding”. Out walking the other day, those muscles became fatigued; I could feel grit on the floor/ground. I could feel every seam in the floor or rock I hit from not picking up my feet when I was walking.

So this brings me to the exercises I can do to strengthen those muscles. I’m still praying that the nerve IS working because if it is, these exercises can strengthen those muscles hopefully returning my gait and fixing the shin pain!

  • Hip Flexion Strengthening: From a sitting position, I lift my leg and hold it up for a count of 10. Repeat x 10 each leg; set of 3. (My right leg is weaker than my left.)
  • Pelvic Tilt: Lie on your back (or stand up against a wall). Tighten muscles by pulling in and imagining your belly button moving toward your spine. (This was a great exercise to do way back when I was pregnant. It shifts the weight of the growing baby off my bladder.)
  • Modified Nerve Glides: While sitting, hold one leg straight out (or as straight as I can manage). While holding this position, bend ankle forward (pointing toe away from body) and back (pointing toe towards body). Hold for a count of ten; repeat x 10 each leg; set of 3.
  • Walking: Yeah, you can’t beat plain, old-fashion walking to practice gait and in picking up my feet when I walk. The longer I walk, the more fatigued the muscles; the more I have to think about picking up my feet. And uneven surfaces… Oh boy! I think it is pretty silly to have to “learn how to walk” again! This frustrates me!!

 

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So, out walking to the barn today navigating uneven surfaces and patches of ice and snow. The destination made it worthwhile to see Jack and Jill, my two donkeys. Jill, the more stoic of the two, had no problem with my unsteady gait as long as I had treats to feed her. Jack, however, could tell there was something different about me. He was just a bit more “reserved” than usual. Still, he let me brush out the straw/debris from his very thick winter coat. And after a while, he gave me kisses.

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Visiting the donkeys made “walking” worthwhile.  I even mucked since the combined weight of the rake and donkey balls was less them my allotted 10 pounds I’m allowed to lift currently. Being outside in the fresh air along with being with the donkeys… This is DEFINITELY a recipe for healing!

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