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.
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.