10 Months Out: Slow and Steady

Surprisingly, it’s been about 10 months now since I had the surgery.  I know it has been some time since the last update; but I reached the point in the process where the improvements I see are more subtle and coming at a slower pace.  Now, I focus on continuing to work hard at therapy, stretching, gaining more strength, and muscle control.

One thing I have noticed as time has passed is that I now find that I will do something without thinking about it and then realize in hindsight that I just did something that would not have been possible before.  For example, a few weeks ago I moved down a flight of stairs in the subway fairly quickly and without holding on to the handrail at all.  It wasn’t until a few minutes later that I realized what just happened.   It’s very cool that I have reached the point where I am subconsciously using new abilities without thinking.

Similarly 3 friends have independently told me that my speed when walking has improved dramatically and they no longer have to slow down as much as they used to when walking with me.  I never really focus on walking faster – it just started happening.  The lesson I should, but probably won’t, take from this is to stop obsessing about every single detail of my gait and movement and just let the improvements come.

In October, I had a gait analysis done for the third time in my life.  The cool thing is that I had each done at the same facility so the report had the data from all 3 instances (2002, 2010, and 2012) so we can see how my gait was changing over the years and the effects of the SDR operation.  It also helped us to zero in on areas to focus on going forward in therapy.  Finally, it’s nice to see a quantification of the changes in my gait to back up anecdotal observations.

Here is a small chart I created with some data from gait analyses:

Screen Shot 2012-12-20 at 9.46.16 PM

What immediately jumps out to me is the decrease is my walking speed and stride length between 2002 and 2010.  The differences were not huge by any means but the downward trend was not a good.  This validates the feeling I had that my condition was getting worse over time.  The other highlight is the increase in my walking speed from 2010 to October of this year, which is pretty significant, and is in line with the observations I mentioned above.

I am still working quite a bit on physical therapy and I am a bit surprised at how long it is taking to increase the strength in certain muscles like my glutes and hamstrings.  It feels like I have to work 3x as hard on these muscles to realize any improvement.  Because of this I have been working hard to avoid the trap of getting lax with the exercise and stretching since the ‘rewards’ are not as immediately apparent as they were before.

Now that more time has passed since the surgery it’s easier for me to look back and think about how my quality of life has increased:

  • Less pain as I go about my day – Awesome
  • The lifespan of my footwear has increased at least 5x – My wallet loves this
  • I am generally more physically able – I cannot overstate how awesome this one is!
  • Stretching and exercise leads to actual results instead of feeling like a waste of time

Stopping to think about all these great changes from time is a great way to remind myself of how glad I am I had this done and how it will pay dividends for the rest of my life.