When One Leg Is Shorter, Redux

 

One of my legs has always been longer than the other. The difference in the length of my legs has contributed to low back and sacroiliac pain and dysfunction. It has also played a role in hip, knee, and foot problems. These challenges contributed to the centrality of the pool in my physical activity. In 5-10 feet of water a minor leg length discrepancy has little meaning.

My ability to enjoy the water came crashing to a halt in 2015. I had fallen and injured my left arm from shoulder to wrist, including the joints associated with the thumb. I also injured my brain in the fall. I was left swimming a one-armed backstroke, a very ugly and inefficient way to move through the water.

However, it was the violent spasms in my hip flexors that pulled me from the water. Moving through the water was difficult having only one arm that worked as expected. When my hip flexors stopped functioning, the process transformed into dangerous and impossible. STARTING IN 2015, I POSTED ABOUT MY EXPERIENCES WITH THESE ISSUES ON THIS BLOG SITE. These blog posts became my official memory as I worked my way through the traumatic brain injury. 

For more than a year, I experimented with continued epidural steroid injections and tried different forms of physical therapy. None of them helped and several made the problems worse. I am not speaking of pain alone. I am also speaking of loss of functional capacity. If I could not “push through pain” I would have died several decades ago. This time I had reached a point where I could no longer will some of my muscles to work. My right leg was especially troublesome. It would buckle and drop me to the floor without warning.

One of my physical therapy routines aggravated debris from broken surgical wire around my left knee replacement. I experienced a brief resurgence in lupus symptoms followed by a severe allergic reaction to dust mites and infections in my lungs, sinuses, and middle ear. I was out of circulation for several months.

Once I had calmed the inflammation and infections in my respiratory system, I took this new muscle weakness symptom to my interventional pain management physician and my orthopedic surgeon. They decided that the problem was one that required the assistance of my neurosurgeon. The cyst that was visible on the MRI indicated that they were correct.

The surgery was performed six months ago. There is no longer a cyst compressing my spine and my right leg is no longer collapsing. I still have the standard symptoms from the compression of nerve roots in the lumbar spine: numbness, burning, tingling. I also have the challenge of sacroiliac syndrome. I am, nevertheless, excited to now be working on my long term physical rehabilitation.

This rehabilitation effort starts with compensating for my leg length discrepancy. Compensating for the leg length discrepancy has long been my responsibility. My orthopedic physical therapist once exclaimed that this was more art than science.

In my case, the difference between the length of the two legs is small in size but large in effect. For me, the most effective method for measuring the size of the difference that needs to be corrected is found in “clearly adjustable” products. I use heel lifts and I use foot lifts

These lifts are “micro adjustable.” I will remove, or add, one layer at a time until I have identified the height that reduces symptoms in the right buttock, hip, and leg without producing symptoms on the left side.

I will work slowly. The damage to the nerves in my right buttock, thigh, leg, and foot has resulted in significant muscle atrophy. It can take another full year to determine if any of the damaged nerves have regenerated enough to allow the muscles to gain strength.

In the meantime, I will continue to work on keeping the lupus in “technical “remission. I will stop ignoring the symptoms of Sjogren’s syndrome, and I will eat to promote systemic and metabolic wellness.

Lupus is a large, dangerous, and mysterious wolf with whom I have been forced to share a life for more than 50 years. I think of keeping lupus in remission as “keeping the wolf calm.” To accomplish this, I must:

  1. Avoid Ultraviolet Rays both from the sun and from florescent lighting.
  2. Stay attuned to changes in weather patterns, including temperature, humidity, and barometric pressure.
  3. Cope effectively with stress.
  4. Exercise appropriately for weight, strength, and mood.
  5. Eat a nutrient dense whole foods diet with anti-inflammatory properties.
  6. Take my daily hydroxychloroquine.

Dealing with Sjogren’s requires everything in the list above, plus keeping my eyes appropriately moisturized. Taking hydroxychloroquine requires being screened for toxicity by an ophthalmologist at least once a year. I prefer to be screened twice a year. I was screened recently and got a lecture because my eyes were too dry to indicate that I had been taking care of them properly. I have received the message.

I am a health and nutrition educator. Selecting, preparing and eating health promoting foods are activities that I enjoy. Unfortunately, my ability to do so is impacted by pain and fatigue and sometimes even I find myself reaching for foods that provide a quick mood fix. To avoid these impulses, I must focus on eating a nutrient dense whole foods diet with anti-inflammatory properties. Yes, it is worth mentioning twice.

Having autoimmune diagnoses and congenital structural defects does not render me immune from the health problems faced by everyone else in my demographic categories. It is past time for a visit with my gynecologist and my colon and rectal surgeon.

Clearly, I have a full agenda. You are invited to come on this journey with me. As a health and nutrition educator, it will be my pleasure to have you accompany me

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