It’s actually quite amazing how our nervous and musculoskeletal systems are so complex in organizing all the right joint movements and muscle actions in order to propel us forward with minimal effort. Auto pilot or cruise control essentially settles in.
As we journey through most of life, it isn’t very likely that we will give this gift of locomotion much of a second thought. However, rest assured there will certainly come a time when it will be to our advantage to review our skill level when it comes to walking.
Whether you are recovering from an injury, from surgery or are simply being challenged by factors that can occur alongside the blessings of advancing years, pain, joint restriction, arthritis, nerve compression, neurological disease, depression or poor balance can all directly affect the quality of your walking or gait pattern. Regardless of the cause, considering the value that walking offers toward our independence and overall general health, any deficits that affect mobility should be promptly addressed.
A few key considerations for maintaining longevity in your stride:
- Be aware of ongoing or progressive limitations– If following an injury you find that your mobility, strength, balance, endurance or speed are not progressively improving over time, or if you are experiencing symptoms that can be described as sharp, persistent or progressively worsening, seeking help to identifying the area of limitation early can often mean the difference between effective treatment strategies with resolution and long-term deficits.
- Remain active within reason–Unless symptoms are sharp, in which case you most likely won’t be able to bear weight, or your gait pattern is significantly altered sot hat it is affecting your balance and safety, keep moving. Occasionally following an injury, we can be tempted to rest more than is necessary for optimal recovery. Your body is designed to move, and doing so within reason will improve circulation, promote healing and allow you to remain aware of changes to more effectively self-monitor your own recovery. That first step can often guide the entire course – with even small steps taken consistently over a period of time, adding up to a favorable recovery.
- Use assistive devices when necessary –Using a cane, walker or other assistive device is intended to restore or improve your mobility by keeping you active while keeping you safe during recovery. Contrary to what some may believe, it simply will not cause you to become weak by way of dependence. If your gait pattern is significantly altered by your current restriction, the inefficient movement that results by refusing to use a device can often have a negative effect on other areas of the body. This may in fact lead to a longer recovery time.
- Seek to maintain ongoing support – The support of immediate family, close friends, and even organized walking groups can help with motivation. All the virtual groups that have emerged since the onset of COVID-19have helped to create a social structure and support network that can also help to benefit your mental health, particularly during this difficult time of ongoing isolation and social distancing. Having consistent support available can also be great in terms of an ongoing assessment strategy. Changes that might be difficult to recognize in ourselves can often be easily identified by those who have the privilege of spending time with us.
- Set concrete realistic goals for yourself –It is always easier to get somewhere when you know where you are going and how to get there.
What are your goals? We’d love to hear them! If you feel that you might have mobility issues that are holding you back, give us a call. We’re here to help.
~ Elizabeth Stefanyshyn-Alonso PT