Jump to content
Heather Mills - Amputee Forum
kate

balance post amputation: calling all 'Hoppers'

Recommended Posts

hi all!

As I am still not walking (long story to do with the NHS shakeup in the UK and ongoing scar tissue problems) I have decided to try and learn to walk on crutches. Now most of you will probably scratch your heads at this point as you will assume that using crutches is a skill you were taught shortly after surgery whilst still in hospital. Unfortunately my local hospital refuses to allow amputees to use crutches, the mantra being "We Don't Do Hopping". This is very annoying and limiting as when I am on my own I cannot access most of my own home in a wheelchair. I am also mindful of a steady increase in weight over time due to the physio provision being non-existent at this hospital unless you are up on a prosthesis. As a young (!!!!) - well, younger- woman I just don't fit their category of elderly, diabetic amputees.

I have finally had enough and have my own physio coming on Tuesday to help me 'learn' to walk with crutches without a 'leg' on. So what I wanted to ask you all is have you any tips or advice regarding balance etc. and what are the pitfalls (apart from the obvious falling on my backside one!).

I go to the gym as often as I can and at the moment, daily, to try and keep those core muscles fit and strong, but standing up is an alien experience after 2 years in a wheelchair, so anything you can say about this will be gratefully received.

Hoppers Of The World Unite!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Kate,

Sorry that you are having such a lousy time with something that’s so basic it should be shown at the hospital, :mad: I know at my hospital you wasn’t allowed out until you could go up and down a couple of steps on crutches which proved to be changing for myself as not only was my left leg missing but my left shoulder was still strapped up. I think they let me go in the end as I was on the verge of hopping down the stairs and wanted to get rid of me. :laugh:

Where to start? I really don’t know sorry but I will say one thing ……………….that I (surprise surprise) totally disregarded what I was told about not to hop, for the first year I would wake up at night and hop to the bathroom etc., this all came to a crashing end when I popped my good knee out (very painful) and lesson learnt ….so DON’T HOP :excl:

Using crutches, I think that like most things it’s a confidence thing and in no time you will be whooshing around the house doing all sorts of stuff while you are on them, then you will naturally progress to doing the shopping and other boring stuff around town, :ohmy: but it all has to start somewhere.

A suggestion, try just standing up using the crutches as a steading support, with a seat behind you so you can sit down when you get tired, when you are happy doing this try standing and taking the weight in your arms lift your good foot off the ground an inch or so (sooner or later all your weight will be taken up through your arms so you might as well get used to it in a safe and controlled manner)

Taking that all important first “step”, myself I take the weight on my good leg, position both crutches a foot or so in front of me then “step / swing “through normally bringing my foot back down on the ground a foot or so in front of the crutches then using the forward movement bring the crutches down to either stabilise my position or in front by another foot or so ready for the next step.

I suppose it practise practise and even more practise, once you start you will soon pick it up, but it disgusting that you haven’t been shown……………that’s just wrong! :mad:

If you lived near me I would pop round with a spare set and we could have a teach in session just to get you started :biggrin: .other than all I can do is wish you well and say that once you start you will wonder what all the fuss was about and that you will become an expert in using them.

Take care ………………..Mick (not much help I know)

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

From past experience, I will just give this advice. If you do start to fall, don't put your "nonexistant" foot down to try to break the fall. That, can create a myriad of problems that you don't want.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Kate, I am bilateral, so don't quite have the same problem, but know from my hours of sitting around in various prosthetic centre's, there is different schools of thought on hopping, depending on where you go. I think in the early days it is thought can be detrimental to forces being put through the actual stump when hopping, also risk of falling etc, so some places will not allow you to hop at all initially.

Longer term I imagine most single amps have to hop at times, and most I see use crutches for that. I think sometimes just getting hold of crutches can be an issue too, as they don't seem to like to give them out these days, though you can buy them yourself or sometimes borrow them from the Red Cross. I have no idea why they make it so difficult in the UK for us these days, having also myself experienced non-existent physio too for established amps know that it often doesn't make a lot of difference if you have a prosthesis or not, again a bit of a lottery,depends on where you go and who is treating you.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Okay. As a physical therapist I have to say that using crutches is not hopping. It is a very controlled movement using your arms to take the place of weight bearing (partial or full) of a leg. As a left BKA sometimes I hop a few feet when in a pinch but mostly I don't because I want to avoid overuse or injury to my right leg.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

thank you Mick, Kep, Ann and Kathy! Of course, when I say "hopping" I am quoting someone who should know better. I am nervous about actually taking that 1st step for all the reasons you mention, hence calling upon a physio to guide me on my way. Crutches are very useful for the odd step (I have steps around my house and most of my local shops have one step at the doorway. They would be invaluable for going to the bathroom at night etc. but I do understand the need to look after my other leg - I am a transmetatarsal amputee on the left and for all I know, crutches may not be feasible. It just annoys me that I wasn't offered the chance to try.Thank you all for your advice and please keep it coming. I will let you know how it goes...I am off to practise standing and balancing with a chair behind me as you suggest Mick!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I wasn't taught to use crutches due to issues with my "good" foot, which I almost lost, and not able to put weight on it for 10 months after amputation. So here I am, almost 10 yrs later, using my wheelchair when I take my leg off. I'm rbk. I get really irritated at myself for not using crutches instead of the wheelchair,but it's what I know. It's what I'm comfortable with. Then sometimes I think, well, you're not likely to fall out of the wheelchair! And I only use it maybe an hour a day. Guess I need to get over it. But sometimes I feel inferior to those who can use crutches.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We wheelchair folks are not "inferior" to crutch users, Marcia...just "different." :cool: Seriously, though, it would be nice to be able to function on crutches as well as some of our members do!

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wow Marie! Have just read your post about the New Orleans Jazz Fest and how you coped. There is NOTHING inferior about you girl!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't think there is anything wrong with using a wheelchair or a walker or crutches. I have all 3 and find that around my house, before I put my leg on in the morning and after I take it off at night, I mainly use the wheelchair. The walker is second for getting in and out of the shower and the crutches mostly stand by themselves in a corner. The reason for me is simple - function. The wheelchair is faster and safer and I can carry things when I use it. The walker is stable and I value that when showering. If I did a lot of walking without my leg on then crutches would be the better choice for speed and overall efficiency. It is all about mobility and what works for you.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I agree totally !there is nothing wrong with using anything to get you through the day (and night) safely and comfortably.

I had my first "hop" today. (i.e. safely supervised step on crutches with a qualified physio). It was WONDERFUL but exhausting. She massaged muscles, gave me horrendously difficult exercises and generaly tortured me and it was GREAT. So tomorrow, 2 steps...

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A few things that quickly come to mind ~

* Use ergonomic hand grips that are made of a medium density material (i.e. not hard plastic).

* Get your physio to teach you some core stability exercises. You can do some great ones in the pool.

* Try to buy your own crutches.

* For extra stability you could try something like a gutter frame. I believe the trendy ones have four wheels and brakes! :cool:

And, lastly, try to gradually build up to using your upper body, otherwise you could easily suffer from overuse injuries. :blink:

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Then sometimes I think, well, you're not likely to fall out of the wheelchair!

Hmm ... that's what I used to think ...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Oh, dear...."USED to think," Lizzie? That sounds rather ominous! Do you have a story to tell............??

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks Lizzie!I have bought some crutches with ergonomic handles and have been going to the gym to get those core muscles nice and strong. Have also been using those machines which exercise your inner/outer thighs. But nothing prepared me for how difficult that first step was! The muscles at the front and back of my legs and those underneath my residual left foot are useless after 2 years of being in a wheelchair. Still, I won't let that stop me! But it was also a very scary experience taking that first step...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The muscles ... underneath my residual left foot are useless after 2 years of being in a wheelchair.

Sorry, but I don't understand?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Apparently because of the loss of my toes I have not been bending my foot and that has messed up the muscles in the arch of my foot. Does that make any sense? It certainly feels very difficult to bend my foot now. The leg muscles running along the front of my leg (from top to bottom) both front and back have not been exercised for a long time - at the gym, the resistance machine for legs only concentrates on inner and outer thigh muscles (i.e. sides). This is what the physio told me anyway..... Some leg muscles I never knew existed have kept me awake all night. Ouch!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thought that may be the case. :smile:

All the terms can be a bit of a nightmare ... :blink:

Your 'residual limb' is the leg that has been amputated ... it's the bit of the limb that's left after amputation.

Your remaining limb is your healthy, intact limb. x

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Apparently because of the loss of my toes I have not been bending my foot and that has messed up the muscles in the arch of my foot. Does that make any sense? It certainly feels very difficult to bend my foot now. The leg muscles running along the front of my leg (from top to bottom) both front and back have not been exercised for a long time - at the gym, the resistance machine for legs only concentrates on inner and outer thigh muscles (i.e. sides). This is what the physio told me anyway..... Some leg muscles I never knew existed have kept me awake all night. Ouch!

Sounds like you have a lot of damage there ... ? :sad:

Have they tested how much muscle activity you have? There's a littlle hand held device that your physio should know about that can show them how much activity there is in a muscle ... they just put it against your skin, you move your muscle and it show the strength of the muscle.

If it's very painful or difficult, I would imagine you need to do it gently and often ... ? and have lots of ice packs and pain relief around. x.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Having had a chat with you Kate, it seems you'd probably be classed as a bilateral amp ... so you have two residual limbs ... my mistake ... and snap! :cool:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

To all of you lovely people who advised me on this, I am just posting to let you know I took my first "walk" around our kitchen table today using crutches! After a month or 2 of physio and gym and practice, I got there...next week:STEPS! Thank you all for your encouragement and support.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Kate,

Good for you! Keep it up but don't wear your self out. Falling while using crutches is no fun. The crutches clatter when they hit, you will probably do more than just clatter when you hit - those around you can learn all sorts of interesting words. Besides getting up off the ground is a pain in the butt!

A backpack for stuff is a must. Crutches and a shopping basket do not work. Especially when a item is in a glass container. My experience has been that anyone who has every been on crutches will lend a hand opening doors, carrying items etc faster than anyone else. They get it.

Jane

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Kate and well done, :biggrin:

All journeys start with a single step, the secret is now to build up until you can go anywhere that you want to in a safe and controlled manner. Agree with Jane about a rucksack / backpack this must be a "must have "bit of kit for anyone on crutches who want so get on with their normal day to day living outside the house.

Steps , opening doors , grassy banks , crowds :excl: you will develop different technics for dealing with them ………………….Good luck and keep on pushing your limits each day .....................mick

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×