Monday, October 19, 2015
Transverse Myelitis and Core Strength
Those of you who have read the blogs about my struggle with TM will be pleased to know I have continued to gradually increase my exercises bit by bit. (OK, I know some of you may be a bit envious, and just know you cannot do any better than you already do, given the acuity of your symptoms, or the level of the spinal problem. Please forgive what I am about to write).
From a rather miserable 1084 nominal steps per day average back in January when I got this irritating app ‘Pacer’ on my iPhone, I have now managed to build to a nominal average 2268 steps. I am walking some distance almost every day, swimming in our pool a bit now it is summer and the water temperature is 29 degrees or so, and I have increased my time on the indoor bike to 25 minutes on the two occasions a week when I am not too exhausted to give it a go. Bloody app still calls me ‘sedentary’, but on several days recently I have got into the ‘lightly active’ range. Woo hoo!
But there are three problems emerging. First, I had expected my legs to feel different. Certainly the bulk of the musculature on my calves has increased, the left more than the right. But the sensation is usually that old ‘woolly sock’ feeling I described in my book Taking Charge. And it is a bit worse, not better. I do not appear to be doing my legs any harm, so I try to ignore it. But I do wonder whether the increase in activity is forcing my spinal cord to ‘retaliate’. “Ha, you think your belief in plasticity is real, and you think you can get away with pushing things, but I will show you!”
The second problem is that while my peripheral muscles look and feel like they are stronger, my thighs have not changed much. More than that, I am noticing more that my core muscles are weak. I don’t think they are weaker than they were last year. Rather, the more I do the more I am aware. So, I used to do up to a hundred sit-ups when I was doing Karate all those years ago; but I can no longer do that (??yet). I have trouble lifting my right knee and leg more than 3-4 inches of the ground, while balancing on the other foot (and holding on to a rail, or a kitchen bench).
I think this problem is probably related to another problem, which is that my balance is not as good as it was last year. Perhaps it is just that I am trying to do more, so I am more aware. But I continue to use my stick in my right hand but, even with this, I am less certain with my foot placement when we are walking.
I have deliberately begun to work on the muscles around my hips, and in my tummy (eg psoas) by increasing the times I try to lift my leg off the floor, and swing it backward and forward a bit. In a chair, I am deliberately doing some work on sitting upright better, and also rocking forward and backward. I am trying to do some ‘hula hoop’ movements (without a hula hoop). I have (rather infrequently, I am afraid) begun to do some old Karate blocks and punches in front of the bathroom mirror. I try to remember to breathe using my tummy muscles rather than my chest muscles. When using the bike, I try to lift the thigh as a way of moving the peddle rather than pressing down.
I am sure a physiotherapist would think my efforts are a bit pitiful, but I do as much as I can without increasing my exhaustion any more.
Is it progress? I think it is gradually becoming progress, even if I can’t feel my lower legs very well (after all, I do know they are still there, and just know they will do the job, even if I can’t feel them).
Is it proving to me that the spinal cord is plastic? Mmmm… Not convinced yet.
Would your physio give you a better idea of what exercises to do to work on progress. I am sure they would. But then, of course, you have to do the exercises and keep it up…