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Monday, December 26, 2011

Post-Surgery Physical Therapy

Sorry I haven't written the whole last week. I've been so exhausted from PT every night that I was barely able to keep my eyes open. So here is the quick version of my week in PT.

The week of physical therapy following surgery was more intense for my legs than any normal sessions would have been. I have multiple back restrictions (no bending, no twisting, no lifting over 10 lbs) from my back surgery, making it harder to find activities I could do. Most of the activities I was able to do involved my legs, which meant that my legs got worked out 3 times as much as they usually do.

I did a lot of walking and standing balance activities. One of my goals was to increase the distance I could walk without getting completely exhausted. I'm not sure exactly how far I could walk before but my therapist set a distance of 1200 ft for my new goal. Needless to say by the end of the week I blew that goal out of the water. The balance activities included putting my feet at different elevations, on different surfaces, and standing with and without my AFO (Ankle Foot Orthosis). My legs ended up feeling like jello after all of that.

 This exercise forces the weight onto my left leg, the one that still has considerable weakness. The small step was replaced with steps of varying heights, the tallest reaching about 6''.

After I mentioned the soreness these exercises were causing my legs, we eventually switched it up. I was given several exercises that focused on my hamstrings (the muscles running behind the knee) and I experimented with the use of the biofeedback machine.

A bit of background: When I first started getting muscle contractions in my legs it used to take every ounce of concentration I had to get even one muscle firing. Now that I have significant use of much of my left leg I am having trouble turning some of these muscles back off again. My hamstrings, the group of muscles that together bend the leg at the knee, are being hindered by the fact that my quadriceps, the thigh muscles responsible for extending the leg, won't turn off. In essence I am fighting my own muscles every time I attempt to bend my leg. 

The biofeedback machine, the NeuroMove.

The biofeedback machine is connected to multiple electrodes that tell me when certain muscles are active. The particular model I used, the NeuroMove, sets measurable goals so that you are able to see when a muscle is moving. In this case, I was able to use it to show when my quadriceps were kicking in. This way I could consciously relax the muscles and see visible results on the screen. I achieved limited success with the machine, as far as machine measured results. What I did gain was the sensation of what it was like to have normal functioning muscles again, something I can attempt to repeat from now on.

The last noteworthy exercise I did was jumping on a mini-trampoline the Friday before I left. This was something my therapist had wanted to experiment with once she saw how high functioning my legs were. Harder than it looked at first, I had difficulty even bouncing gently. My main problem was that because I have greater weakness in my left leg it is hard to move both my legs in unison. Eventually I was able to get them both moving in a rhythm, even getting a small jump here and there. As easy as this sounds, this was one of the hardest workouts I got all week.

At the end of the week I was given a home program, a booklet with exercises and stretches handmade just for me, even though I'm not able to practice all of them yet because of my spinal restrictions. The exercises in the booklet focus on strengthening the muscles and areas that still have some weakness. I've received one after each round of therapy at Kennedy Krieger, each one with slightly different exercises based on how far my body has recovered. 

This was not where I was expecting to be after surgery, though I am pleased with the results. I'm only a step behind from where I was before surgery instead of the three I had been dreading. At the end of the day, I'm tired but I know I will be back to where I was and farther in no time.

1 comment:

  1. After studying a patient's medical history, physical therapists observe the patient's posture, strength, motor function, breathing ability, coordination, and balance. Visit good website for more info.