It’s been about 10 weeks since I have had the surgery and everything is still going well. I am still making progress but have shifted gears from rapid change/rapid results to a more slow and steady pace. Let’s just say at this point the rehab process is also a great lesson in patience.
My hamstrings are lagging behind the rest of my muscles and my physical therapist and I suspect that it may be mental as well as physical. I rely on my quads to do a lot movement that should be driven by my hamstrings. The electrical muscle stimulation is helping but I still find that I fall back to the old pattern of relying on my quads. I like to think that I can overcome this eventually but only time will tell. Apparently, it’s not that easy to reprogram decades of muscle memory!
I am still working on increasing my endurance so that I can walk for longer distances without my feet starting to drag (this happens when I get tired). Another thing I have noticed as I have become more active is that I sometimes have muscle spasms at night while I am sleeping. The muscle spasms are brief but they are strong enough to wake me up. I thought I was going to get away without having to deal with the muscle spasms but they caught up with me in the end.
For the next 4 weeks my PT and I have set the following goals:
1. Increase my hamstring strength to assist with clearance during the swing phase of walking.
2. Increase hip strength to try and balance out my gait on both sides
3. Increase my endurance so that I can maintain a fluid gait.
Obviously, I still have a lot of work to do but I do not want to leave with the impression that I feel as though things are not going well. The change in my quality of life has been great and my footwear will have a much longer lifespan, which is great for my wallet. Below is a picture of a pair of sneakers I wore before the SDR that were about 8 weeks old – I had to stop wearing them for obvious reasons. On the right are the sneakers I wore for a couple of weeks before the operation and everyday since then – about 12 weeks total. The difference speaks for itself!
Today marks 8 weeks since the surgery and 7 weeks of physical therapy. I will have a more substantive update later; for now I wanted to post a short video of me on stairs. While there is still room for improvement the difference between this and before the surgery is amazing. I was at the point where stairs were very difficult for me and I could not lift my legs in front of me — I had to swing my legs in a circular motion up and around each step.
I continue to go to physical therapy 3x/week and do my home program every morning and still feel like I am making progress. I often forget how weak my legs still are and do something that I really shouldn’t. There have also been a few days when I pushed my body to the extreme limit ended up completely exhausted. That said, it feels great when I can pull something off that I was unable to do before – this past week I gained the ability to stand up from a half kneel without using my arms to pull myself up. It’s not the smoothest motion but at least it’s happening.
Last week we started to use Electrical Muscle Stimulation (EMS) on some of my muscles to push along the strengthening process. EMS involves sending electrical impulses to certain muscles to stimulate them. The muscle receives a current for an interval, say 15 seconds, and while the current is on I perform as many reps as I can of specific exercise. The current then turns off for 10 seconds so that I can rest and the process repeats for 5 minutes. For example, when we use EMS on my quads I do leg extensions. We are using EMS on my hamstrings, quads, and glutes. There is a noticeable difference in the motion of my legs when the EMS is active so I am hopeful that using this technique will produce some long-term improvements.
One thing I have noticed is that if I do not stretch in the morning for some reason I can notice a difference in my flexibility throughout the day. So if I ever think about getting lazy with regards to the stretching I have a powerful reminder on how important it is.
Today I have a short video of me doing some box jumps at the gym. In this video I am jumping on to a platform that is 13 inches high. I was able to do this before the surgery after months of training and 13 inches was my plateau. This past Sunday was my first time doing box jumps since the operation and I was able to do jump onto the 13 inch platform with ease! So I think it will only get better from here. That said, I showed my physical therapist the video today and she gently suggested (read – told me) that I slow down and not do the box jumps again for a while.