"In short, health is measured by the shock a person
can take without
his usual way of life being compromised." Moshe
February 2018: Walking on my own two feet
Yeah! No more crutches.
Though it was satisfying to walk 50 miles using my
iWalk2 crutch and complete the Northwest Winter
Challenge (a mile a day for a month, rain or shine Ė
thank you Shoes n Feet and Ed for keeping me sane during
January!), thereís nothing like being able to walk on my
own two feet.
The multiple breaks in my
big toe are healing nicely. But after 2 Ĺ months of not
weight-bearing on my foot, thereís a lot to relearn, and
a lot of muscles to strengthen. Despite all the exercise
and Feldenkrais lessons I did, my left calf was an inch
and a half smaller than my right, my foot felt like a
club, and I couldnít walk without a major limp.
If youíve never had a broken bone, this post may
be more detail than youíre interested in. But if youíve gone
through a similar recovery process, you may find it somehow
satisfying to read about another personís journey. I know I did,
spending a few late nights pouring over blog posts, wondering
what I could do to speed my healing journey.
At first when I came out of the boot, my toe was
stuck pointing upwards, still swollen, and not able to touch the
ground. Tapping my toe felt like moving a block of wood, and my
whole foot felt more like a club than something that has 26
bones, 33 joints and more than 100 muscles, tendons, and
ligaments. With all that complexity, itís not surprising that my
brain had a lot to relearn. But Iím impatient, and somehow
thought I could be fully functional right away. Wrong!
I almost cried with joy on day 1, carrying my
groceries down the stairs to my house. Having two hands free is
the best part of being off crutches, and not having to plan so
far in advance to make sure I always have what I need. Most of
that first day was spent just in pleasure at being able to get
back to life.
Some of my first explorations were using my hand
to gently explore each joint in my foot, waking up the
connections and range of motion in each joint. Classic PT
exercises Ė scrunching up a towel, picking up marbles with my
toes, and raising up on my toes were well beyond me. One
measurement of toe coordination and strength is to put the ends
of the toes on a scale and push down Ė 3 pounds with my left was
all I could do. I started working with flexion, curling up my
body, my fists, and my feet all at the same time, thinking of
making domes in my hands and feet. I played with rocking around
my feet, circling my body above my feet to put pressure in
different areas, and pushing through the wall in as many
positions as I could think of.
On day 2 I made it up a set of stairs,
alternating one foot then the other. Down took another week:
putting the toes down and rolling through my foot felt like
foreign territory. During the first few days, many times a day,
I tried doing exercises like lifting up the middle of my foot
and sliding my toes toward my heels, writing the alphabet with
my big toe, and playing imaginary piano with my toes. The foot
and hand are mapped quite closely in the motor cortex, so I did
the same movements with both at the same time to help the foot
learn. And I took the demand down on the classic exercises,
lying on my back with my feet standing, and beginning to lift my
heel. Strange to feel my calf quivering with such a small
On day 3, with my big toe newly touching the
ground, I walked ĺ of a mile Ė too much, and I developed pain
under my 3rd and 4th metatarsal/toe
joints. I tried bicycling a stationary bicycle Ė that felt
great, and when I discovered my gym had a live feed for the
Olympic, bicycling became the go to exercise.
On day 5 I tried waltzing. And like with most
things, I jump in a little fast. So not 10 minutes of waltzing,
but a 3 hour class. I made it most of the way through, but could
not do a left-turning waltz. Pushing off and twisting did not
feel good. So many things I did automatically that I now have to
Then life got busier, and I stopped keeping
notes. Kind of like with baby pictures: lots of detailed
attention at the beginning, then time speeds on by. But I've
been keeping up my daily Feldenkrais lessons and explorations
with my foot. On Sunday, day 16, I was able to do a 2 mile hike
without pain and a few hours of garden cleanup, including
carrying trash cans up two flights of stairs. Flexion throughout
the foot is getting better, but still has room to improve. I
haven't tried skating yet. And definitely no running for at
least another month.
Iíd love to hear your stories of how long it took
to feel normal after a broken bone healed Ė and what worked and
didnít in your recovery. Email me at Irene@movebeyondlimits.com.
2017: A year of recovery
What a year! After a winter filled with delight
in trail running, building up to a glorious rainy-day trail race
and running with participants from my Feldenkrais for runners
class, I made the classic running mistake of increasing mileage
too fast. Persistent foot pain inspired a deep-dive into
understanding running form and foot anatomy, followed by a trip
to the doctor for an x-ray, and diagnosis of a stress fracture
in my heel bone. After spending the summer in a walking boot, I
restarted dancing and skating, hobbies I'd neglected during my
year of falling in love with running. Over Thanksgiving weekend,
I began exploring transferring my inline skills to ice and set
my sights on trying synchronized skating. Life felt like it was
beginning to get back to "normal" and I was delighting in
feeling my skills improve.
Then, while getting dressed and contemplating what to wear for
ice skating, a vase jumped off my dresser, shattered my big toe,
and changed those plans!
These have been my
first broken bones, and I've never had to cope with an
immobilized body part before. With foot 1 in a boot, I could
still walk. I thought that was bad. With foot 2, I can't bear
weight until mid-January at the earliest. And crutches take away the
hands, as well as the feet, setting up some new challenges.
When we use the
Feldenkrais Method to help people, the core principles that
guide our work apply to emotions, as well as to physical
challenges. With two similar injuries this year, I'm being more
conscious of using these principles this time, which is helping
keep anxiety and depression at bay. I'll let you know once the boot is
off, but I'm expecting it to be a faster recovery from immobilization.
Here are some of the principles:
The vase that
changed my plans
Flexible goals: "Embrace all the
unexpected steps, mis-steps, and re-routes. They are a rich source
of valuable information for your brain to lead you to your goal."
Anat Baniel, founder Anat
If my goal is synchronized skating, and I can't stand or skate or
dance, I need to find different ways to keep moving and building my
self-organization and balance. I'm using this in two ways:
Immersing myself in new Feldenkrais lessons each day gives me a
chance to imagine using my foot and toes, improve my breathing, balance and coordination,
and most importantly reset my mood into calmness as my body lets
go of unnecessary tension. This has also led me to put together
some new workshops that I'm
excited to share with you.
ways to dance that I can do: Nia which encourages me to
dance however I can: on the floor, in a chair, or on my scooter,
and great dance workshops where I sit on the side, imagine
dancing, and study how excellent teachers teach, and students
know what you're doing, you can do what you want."
Moshe Feldenkrais, DSc.
I've thought about writing a blog for years, but this is the first
time I've actually written a post. Writing it down makes me observe
myself. There's a
clear pattern to how I react to injury: denial, rage, depression, followed by "Ok, this
is real, what can I do to stay sane, and what's the learning."
Seeing this pattern opens the possibility that other responses are
possible in any given moment. I have a choice in how I respond.
"How do you
find support from the ground?"
Jeff Haller, PhD, Feldenkrais
On the physical side, learning how to find support from crutches,
and improving my one-foot balance has helped me master getting
around without touching one foot down. (Try getting up from the
floor or even the toilet without letting any part of one foot touch
the ground - not so easy!) On the emotional side, one of the first
things I did was to hire someone to help me get done the things I
can't do without use of my hands, and to say yes to offers of
support from friends and family.
Constrict one part of the
body to encourage other parts to
participate in the movement.
Even though it is an involuntary constriction, thinking about this
principle shifts me from
frustration to curiosity, a much happier place to be. And the
constrictions on activities have given more time to other parts of
life, like visiting with friends and family, returning to activities
I can still do, and giving me more time for studying.
"Use variation to discover
Anat Baniel, founder Anat Baniel Method
I'm using a variety of assistive devices to get
around, each of which is useful and uncomfortable in its own
way. By alternating, I've expanded what I can do: crutches are great
for stairs and curbs, the knee scooter is handy around the house and
for errands, and the peg-leg crutch is good for dancing and pushing
a grocery cart. The variation helps avoid the sore wrists and
shoulders from crutches, knee pain from the knee scooter, and
the occasional moments of terror when using the peg-leg crutch.
My husband used to end his email signature with the words
"Accidental techie". This year I'm the "accidental recoverer". I think
we're all always recovering from some shock to our nervous system or
body, and I'm grateful that my profession provides such useful tools.
"What Iím after isnít flexible bodies, but flexible
What Iím after is to restore each person to their human dignity."
Moshe Feldenkrais, DSc.