Just got back from a round of physical therapy. It’s the sort of stuff that you, if you don’t have advanced Parkinson’s disease, would probably laugh at. But I am genuinely hot, tired and worn out.
I find that it helps to revert to my football days. Think of it as “practice,” getting your body in shape for “the game.” In this case, the “game” is daily life.
Here’s my routine from today. First, Francis had me walk up and down the aisle as he observed my gait. Then I stood on this balance machine. If you have the “ Wii Fit ” you are familiar with the concept. You shift your weight to try to keep the ball in the center of the circle, and the machine traces your movements as you shift your weight. Then, also similar to a program on the “Wii Fit,” there’s a circle of dots with a dot in the center of the circle. Your job, shift your weight to take the cursor to the dot that lights up, back to the center, to the next lit up dot, back to the center, and so on.
Then, we went to the balance board . If you place both feet squarely in the center, it’s fairly steady. If you go wide stance, it tends to wobble. Your job, put your left foot on the left edge, then your right foot on the right edge, and in a controlled fashion, shift your weight (holding on to something if you must, but it’s better if you don’t) to make each edge touch the floor for a 3-count. Do that 25 times. Then, put your right foot forward and your left foot back. Rock diagonally, 25 times. Change feet… left foot forward, right foot back. Rock it, baby! 25 times!
Then, we stand on a foam pad. Your job, lift one leg. Hang on to something if you must (and I must). Keep your balance. Then shift to the other leg. Stand on it. Keep your balance. Then stand on both feet. Ah! Easy? Sure it is. Now close your eyes. NOT so easy now, is it!
Finally for today, it’s the treadmill. Set at 1mph, I did 6 minutes of long, striding steps. I noticed something quite peculiar today. When I hold on to the rails, I can take long striding steps like I’ve been doing it all my life. But when I let GO of the rails — WITHOUT ANY THOUGHT INVOLVED AT ALL — my feet revert to their tiny, shuffly steps that can’t keep up with the 1mph pace. Grab the rail? No problem. Back to the long, striding steps. Let go? Steppy steppy steppy steppy steppy shuffle shuffle shuffle shuffle.
It’s all part of the confusing signals the brain gets and transmits to your appendages with Parkinson’s disease. If your mid-brain gets the signal that you’re secure and holding on, it allows your legs and feet to move normally. When you mid-brain LOSES that signal that you’re secure, then here come the steppy steppy step steps.
A half hour of PT , twice a week, with homework exercises. Good stuff.