There are many subtle things we do, or allow or bodies to do, which we shrug off to our growing ataxia.
Get rid of those thoughts as best you can. That’s a tough thing to do and it will take time.
The more you try, the easier it will be, and it begins with you making the commitment to take control of your movements.
Stop saying and believing “I can’t” without giving it a chance. Find out for yourself what you are not capable of doing but please do it safely and with the proper guidance.
Don’t let your toes turn in as you walk because it sets you up for being off balance with the next step. To move straight ahead point and walk with your knees. Point your knees where you want your body and foot to go.
You do not lift your foot. You lift your knee to lift your foot. So stop thinking about lifting your feet. Lift your knees.
Try to stay off the outsides of your feet/shoes when you step. This causes you to teeter towards that direction.
Focus on pushing into the ball of your foot as the front of your foot ‘rolls’ down onto the floor. Then, as that same foot becomes the back foot push off your big toe to take the next step.
Try not to rest too much of your weight on the balls of your feet because invariably we end up on our toes and then try to take the next step with our nose. Until you gain the confidence to move more normally start and end with flat feet. That means equal weight on the balls and heels of your feet. Flat feet is where your stability resides.
Try to avoid standing on your heels as we have all “learned” to do. When you are stiffened and more upright in your posture this will tend to make you unsteady and sometimes a puff of wind can knock you over backwards.
Your knees and hips come with a hinge. Use them but not too much at first as you begin to move. We often get stiff sitting or standing. Take your time. Slowly wake your joints and muscles and ease into more natural movements. Chill out, bend and flex dudes and dudettes, and this is best done on flat feet for stability!
Stepping sideways is inherently unstable, especially for us, because we don’t trust shifting our weight from one foot to the other. So help yourself by keeping your steps small, as in baby step small, as you move from one flat foot to the next.
It may seem difficult in the beginning but try to keep your eyes off the floor. Pick your head up and look where you are going before you take the step. Lifting your head also slightly changes the weight distribution on your feet. Try it.
Our steps tend to be irregular in length. Work at taking small and evenly spaced steps – with your knee leading the way. The bigger steps will come later.
And what is causing your stride length to be irregular? It is not because of our cerebellar atrophy. It happens because of some bad habits we have picked up and I’ll prove it any day of the week. The truth is it is your fault and that means you have the ability to correct it.
Our gait, the distance between our feet as we stand and walk, is wide based for added support. That works against us and it creates more problems than it solves. With time and re-learning how to transfer your weight more efficiently you will begin to bring your feet closer together naturally. So do not worry about trying to keep your feet closer together. Instead work on moving from flat foot to flat foot and that will follow.
You are more normal than you think and act! Prove it to yourself and to the world. I can help you achieve that.
Keep a focus on these alert and danger areas. You’ll thank yourself later.
Let’s begin a process where YOU become the center of your support.
You must realize that your cane, walker, the furniture and your caregiver are not the center of your support!
They are your secondary support system. YOU are the primary!
You are responsible for maintaining your own posture.
Your best standing support is found when you are on your flat feet.
To help you find your flat feet we will begin in a hard chair, one like most of us have at our dining room table.
A straight back chair without wheels is preferable and make sure it is stable.
Your goal is to gain the ability to rise from the chair without pushing or pulling yourself up with your arms.
The most common problems you will have relate to three things.
One, how out of shape you are. Two, how unstable you are. Three, how stiff you are.
And four, all three of these are closely related.
Weak legs will not support much of anything.
From a seated position with your bottom completely on the chair:
First, have both feet on the floor close to the chair, put some pressure into them and do not move them.
Second, keeping your feet pressed to the floor, move your butt forward on the seat of the chair. Move your butt forward until your knees are directly over your toes. Therefore, you are actually moving your knees forward.
If you readjust your feet you will also have to readjust your knee position.
Third, just as you must do to get down into a squat, and just as you must do to stand back up out of a squat, do that same thing now with your thigh muscles. Tighten the thigh muscles and push down through your knees and into your feet.
You will do this same thing when you push your butt deeper into the chair. Momma’s, this is the labor pushing. Men and non Momma’s, this is the severe constipation grunting pushing.
NOTE: you will feel a lot of pressure in your heels as you do this push into your feet.
Do not release any of your leg and abdominal muscle pushing and hold that pressure into your heels.
Fourth, begin to rotate your shoulders slowly forward until your butt liftss off the chair. An easy way to think of this is to act like you are picking something up off the floor that is just in front of your feet.
Fifth, you are standing in a squat. All there is to do now is stand up straighter. Push into your feet to push yourself up, using your knees to move up, and while raising lift your eyes off the floor to the height of the light switch on the wall.
CAUTION: Do not fully straighten your knees.
And how far should my feet be apart for this to stand or sit in a chair? Whatever feels comfortable.
Next reverse the concept as you re-learn how to sit. NO PLOPPING into the chair allowed. Lower yourself into the chair with your knees while keeping your feet flat on the floor.
Push down into your feet to stand and rise from the chair.
Push down into your feet to lower yourself down to sit in the chair.
After a little practice your legs may begin to ache a little. WHY? Your leg muscles have become weak.
Some of you will say, “I shake when I try to do this.”
You can control much of that by focusing on relaxing your tightly tensed up muscles.
Much of the rest of your shaking is from muscle weakness and that you can strengthen.
You can help make both of these issues less of an issue by staying on your flat stabilizing feet.
Why does the the Leaning Tower of Pisa lean?
It’s foundation has weakened. Your legs are your foundation. We are more unstable, therefore more ataxic, because we allowed our foundations to become weakened but then blame it all on our neurological disorder. We become our worst enemy.
To improve your balance, to stand better, to walk better and to be more normal you need to strengthen your legs the good old fashion way.
As you progress with this exercise use less and less of the chair, your cane or other supportive device to assist you.
Find your support that is within you. That support comes from these basics and strengthening the muscles in your legs.
Stay off your heels or you will have a tendency to fall back into the chair.
Stay off your toes or you will have a tendency to end up on your nose.
If your legs are weak don’t expect too much until you strengthen them.
Only take those assistive devices away when you feel comfortable and safe.
When you are on your feet focus on KEEPING YOURSELF ON YOUR FLAT AND HEAVY FEET. Your best stability will be found with you standing with your weight evenly distributed on your flat feet.
Now to begin learning how to easily shift your weight from one foot to the other. While keeping keeping both feet planted on the floor slowly push into one foot. To easily move your body back the other way push into the other foot.
To feel more comfortable Bend your knees and hips a little. Loosen up those knees and hips and flex a bit to feel more secure.
Swaying shoulders are not allowed because you do not want to be the tin man. Move from your feet.
Have you forgotten how? Go watch a toddler. They will show you what we’ve forgotten.
When you feel more confident bend your knees even more with the weight transfer into your feet. Trust the stability you are creating. Move more with it. Turn on the music and boogie to it. Make up the moves while standing on both feet and allowing your body to flex. Play with it.
Practice this until you begin to do it without thinking about what you are doing. Lock it in your feeling memory because this is what your new foundation will be built upon.
You have only just begun. There’s much more but this will get you started. Let me know how it works for you.
I’m betting you will be standing with much less sway the first day you grasp the concept and then you will be ready to relearn how to walk with the same results.
Good luck………. Tom