8 07 2010

I haven’t posted entries on my progress yet.  I regret that because I want to be able to measure my development on this site, but recently I felt I stalled. I had a little improvement here and there, but nothing really noticeable.

I came across this quote from Bruce Lee and find it so applicable to me:

“There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.”  –  Bruce Lee

Several new things have happened in the last couple of weeks, so I’ve decided to adopt this outlook.

A few weeks ago, I started using a device called an electronic muscle stimulator (EMS) twice a week at physio. It uses electrical impulses to trigger muscle flexion. I attach the unit to my left quadriceps and added weight to my right leg and perform sets of quad extensions.

Here is the interesting thing about the EMS (for paralysis anyway).  My brain isn’t actually telling my muscles to flex; the trigger comes from the EMS.  My muscles are developing, but unless I plan to wear an electrical unit forever (not a real possibility), development stops when I stop using the unit.  So for me, the intent is to use my brain as well as the unit to perform quad extensions.  If the nerve damage in my spinal cord does not interfere with transmission of the signal from my brain, through my spinal cord to my quadriceps, I can grow my quads in such a way that ultimately my brain will tell my leg to extend and it will.

Why, you may ask, haven’t I been using my brain to extend my quad without the electrical assistance all along? I’ve been reading up on this and I’ve learned that I missed out on a lot when I gave up hope of recovery (after the spinal cord doctor told me I would never walk again).  Apparently, people can walk with up to 90% of their spinal cord missing or not functioning. People with incomplete spinal cord injuries have a good chance of gaining function, including walking.  A huge problem is that when people are sedentary for so long because of SCI, not only do muscles atrophy, but the central nervous system also undergoes an atrophy called learned “non-use”.  Your nervous system forgets how to transmit signals.  There is lots of evidence to indicate that learned “non-use” can be reversed by intensive repetitive exercise.

I purchased my own EMS last week and pretty much did this exercise every day. It seems that my future will be full of this sort of repetition.   The results from the week are fantastic. My left quad has strengthened significantly.  I’m now able to independently extend my quad better than ever before. My hip flexor is also responding to another set of physio-assigned exercises.  These are two important sets of muscles for walking.

All of this progress tied nicely together this past weekend when I visited my parents.  My physiotherapist speculated that I’ll be able to walk around inside my house with a walker within the next month or so.  Talk about motivation! I use the walker at physio and home (if there are people around to spot me). Otherwise, I have a “special” walker that I use at home. It has a belt that goes around my waist and attaches to the walker so if I lose my balance, I don’t crash on the floor.  It’s big and awkward and a real pain to use, so the prospect of using a regular walker is pretty exciting.   I decided to give the regular walker a try at my parent’s house.  I used it throughout the weekend, walking from room to room.  I even took a stroll outside which you can see in my videos.  That was more difficult because the pavement was not smooth and created drag.  All in all, it was a successful experiment.

The most exciting thing about all of this is that my left leg is starting to move and react “normally”. I can feel my leg muscles kicking in when I walk, do squats or get out of my car.  The pace of progress has just accelerated this week.  I even climbed my first step.  I’ll report more on this later as I’m having dinner at a friend’s on Friday and have been told I should climb the two steps to get in.

I feel so energetic. I’m antsy. I try to be still but my mind races and my insides are twisting in anticipation; like a child on Christmas Eve.  I can’t wait to see what next week brings.




One response

13 10 2011
The Dog Days of Summer « Swagger

[…] patterns.  This repetition either allows the brain to overcome “learned non-use” (see other post for explanation) by relearning how to activate muscles used in the walking sequence, or it creates […]

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