relief for the feet

July 28, 2014

Check out this video I recently came across–it’s targeted at arthritis relief in feet and ankles, but believe me, it also provides benefits for MS folks:

I found it a few days ago, because something I did (probably in my workouts) caused some spasticity in my right shin, foot, and ankle that just didn’t want to let up. I tried stretching, rolling… and it kept on coming back. Sometimes I seek out videos to get advice from others, to see if anyone else has ideas I haven’t thought of.

These ideas aren’t necessarily new, but they’re a great package in under 10 minutes. Her first exercise increases mobility in the foot and ankle–and some of us with MS have problems with that (you may not know that you do!). The remaining exercises are gentle strength exercises, some of which work small, subtle muscles. One is an exercise I’ve worked on sporadically over the years, and I have yet to master it: independent movement of the toes. (Tough! It’s a mind game! But great for strengthening the small muscles of the feet.)

Anyway, just 10 minutes out of your day, a few times a week, and you will see improvements in gait and balance… subtle, but it’ll happen!

The following article came through my feed today:

Eight Reasons Why Pilates Is Great Exercise For Someone With MS

Now… I could be snarky and say that Pilates can help you learn how to count (the list skips 3, so it actually only contains 7 reasons) but, as someone who is a Pilates instructor in the rehab community, I agree with all reasons listed. Not only is Pilates gentle exercise, but it can be done close to the floor (alleviating fear of falling), it involves slow and gentle movements, it includes both strength and stretching (which helps with spasticity)…

Another benefit that is not mentioned (here’s their #3?) is that if you find a good Pilates instructor, he or she will find any deficiencies in your body and help correct them to the best of your ability. For instance, my left leg is a tiny bit weaker due to my lesion around C6 on my spinal cord (they say… I’ve never had a thoracic MRI… wouldn’t that be revealing?). I do a lot of work that involves my legs independent of each other–unilateral exercise–so that my weak leg can’t just “go along for the ride” and be supported by my strong leg all the time. A good Pilates instructor will be able to recognize these issues.

As always, if you have any questions about using Pilates or functional exercise for rehab, throw ‘em my way!

OK, I’ve drawn much of this conclusion before. But I figured I’d reiterate my thoughts, since I haven’t seen this talked about anywhere, really.

People with MS develop chronic pain. Yes, it’s a nervous system disorder. The nervous system is this big, amorphous, not-well-understood thing. And the source of much of this pain is also not understood.

As MS progresses in our bodies, our muscles gradually weaken. There is no discrimination here: big muscles (like the big quadriceps and hamstrings in your legs) get weaker, and really tiny stabilizing muscles (small muscles supporting your hip, keeping your leg tracking properly when you walk) also get weaker.

I, being into fitness, work really hard at fighting this slow progression toward weakness. I am a little weaker on my left side than my right, but not enough so for others to notice it (other than my healthcare and bodywork professionals).

But having had three months of little or no exercise with recent abdominal surgeries, and noticing the magnified effects in my strength differences, it really drove home what I have as the title of this post.

Now, since I’ve caught on quickly that my time off led to additional weaknesses and imbalances, and I’ve worked with rehab patients similar to myself, I’m hopefully getting back to appropriate strength work before any chronic pain situations pop up.

But for example: as a result of MS (and, I believe, my bone shape in general) I have excess mobility/hypermobility in a lot of my left side–hip, shoulder (my shoulder blade almost pulls off my back), thumb, wrist… pretty much everywhere. My thumb actually hurts sometimes. I’ve been doing small-range single-leg squats, starting back into it my holding onto something for balance. My leg, right now, does NOT want to track a straight line–combination of muscle weakness and hypermobility in pretty much every joint makes it wiggle all over the place. (The same exercise on my right side is relatively easy.)

Now, if I just let things go…or if I didn’t know the right type of exercise to do in order to attempt to equalize my sides… I may end up in a state of chronic pain as a result of my hypermobility. One side is stable, the other side is loose and unstable–and because of this, joints get pulled on unevenly (I’m thinking of the lower back and hips), causing daily pain.

I wish I could bottle my thoughts and exercises and send them out to everyone having problems!

(hopefully I’m not the only one who remembers that song)

So, in my posts, I talk a lot about feeling good, having energy, and not experiencing many symptoms. Here’s where I admit to you that I do have the occasional rough time.

I am going through a rough patch right now. I don’t think it’s MS-related, but I’m going through a series of doctor appointments to clear up some lingering issues which remain from my previous GI surgeries. I’ve had lots of times, recently, where I don’t feel like eating, or I only feel like eating plain, bland foods.

Now, I could just curl up and shut out the world. Still, during those times, I make the most of it. It’s pretty easy, still, to log the hours for my online job (from home), so I do that. Aside from that, I get out. I might not be able to go for a run based on how I feel, but even doing my meager grocery shopping lifts my spirits, and the positive thinking makes me feel better.

Also, I make a point to incorporate some movement into the day. Even on the worst days, I move through a slow, gentle yoga sequence. It’s always surprising, the beneficial effects that hip stretches can have on the upper back. (Yeah, I know–everything’s connected, but it’s a nice surprise how good I feel in the end to have some gentle movement!)

So what I’m trying to say: never stop. You may have to back off a little, but keep that body going. It’ll all feel good. :)

reflecting on my 30’s

July 16, 2014

In a few short weeks, I’ll be hitting new territory–a new decade! Most people fear and dread it… I see new opportunities and challenges!

I’ve done a lot of goal setting for this year, and during this year… and just as expected, sometimes things don’t turn out as planned. In fact, I think I did MORE than expected! I inadvertently inspired two groups of students with my mid-spring quarter surgery and comeback (though… I wouldn’t recommend that as a way to inspire students), and I created a whole critical thinking lecture based on the experience.

But, overall, the past ten years is when I’ve created my true sense of self. It’s when many people fear getting older, but when I think back to my 20’s, I was still finding my way and had no true identity. Anyone who knows me now, would say that I definitely have character.

What do I have planned going forward into my 40’s? More travel, of course! More outreach to help the MS community! (Already starting work on this year’s Dance MS fundraiser!) Teaching, nutrition, music, writing, education, seeing if I can run again (that got backburnered with my surgeries)… there’s always a fun project! It keeps us ALIVE!

I still have a few days to celebrate this decade, so stick with me here… then let’s go out with a bang on the 5th!

quote on luck

July 13, 2014

Just read this quote from Peter Dinklage (dwarf actor, who is apparently in this Game of Thrones thing that I have yet to see):

“Although I hate that word—’lucky.’ It cheapens a lot of hard work. Living in Brooklyn in an apartment without any heat and paying for dinner at the bodega with dimes—I don’t think I felt myself lucky back then. Doing plays for 50 bucks and trying to be true to myself as an artist and turning down commercials where they wanted a leprechaun. Saying I was lucky negates the hard work I put in and spits on that guy who’s freezing his ass off back in Brooklyn. So I won’t say I’m lucky. I’m fortunate enough to find or attract very talented people. For some reason I found them, and they found me.”

You know… I feel the same way. People tell me I’m lucky with my symptoms, that I’m “lucky” not to experience much. But you know what? Based on my MRI, I caught my MS late in the game (20+ lesions on my brain alone). I was rather unlucky that a previous doctor didn’t do anything about the white spots that someone else saw on my scans, and let it go another 7 years.

I stay healthy through planning. Through exercise and eating well. Through taking care of myself. By staying true to who I am… and knowing when it will truly pay off. Yes, much like Mr. Dinklage, maybe some will still say that I’m “lucky”, but there’s a reason that good things happen to me.

“If I had months off, I’d sit around and write a book.”

How many of us have said this? I’m sure at least half of us. And yet how many of us write in our spare time? (Yeah, there are a handful of us bloggers. And a bunch of us post pithy Facebook statuses.) Most of the time, we’re reading what others have written. We’re passive. Living others’ lives.

But life is short. Yeah. We all say that. Without going into detail again on my past few months (which is here on the blog if you care)… it is, dammit.

That said, don’t postpone your dreams. If you want to write, write. But, easier said than done. It’s not just about opening up that Word doc and putting virtual pen to paper. That’s when we sit around for hours in analysis paralysis.

That’s where I’ve been for a while… because honestly, I have about 4 or 5 ideas. And I only have 10 more weeks to do it before I’m in front of another group of fresh collegiate faces. So… I’m writing this post to MYSELF as much as I am to all of you.

Any good document starts with an idea, yes, but a bigger one starts with an outline. I do have a draft(ish…) of one of my…. books (I hesitate to call it that. It’s short.) but it’s just a listing of chapters. Remember back in… 4th grade, or whenever, when they had us write outlines before each of our papers? Ugh. It was SO much work. Why can’t we just get to writing the paper? Well… now I know why. (It helps organize thoughts.)

So. We all have something to tell the world. And, better to be active through life than be passive, and let life happen to us. Let’s get crackin’ on this together. Who wants to outline their Great American Novel (mine are non-fiction) with me?

ms and vaccinations

July 7, 2014

Not too long ago, I talked about how I don’t get an annual flu shot and how that was part of my vaccinations discussion with my students. I don’t get sick very often, and I think it’s because of my attention to diet and exercise.

Recently, I was poking around the MS Society website, and was rather pleased to find their stand regarding vaccinations. So many organizations feel that all of us should get every single possible vaccine, whereas you can see, here, that the MS Society feels there are certain categories that aren’t safe for MS patients. Good for them for educating us properly.

To summarize, there are certain vaccines that are made from organisms that aren’t entirely killed–they’re just disabled. These are the ones that could screw up our immune systems, and potentially trigger a flare-up. The vaccines that contain completely dead organisms should be perfectly safe for us.

While I believe in vaccinating against diseases that could risk life-and-limb, if a vaccine were to come out against the common cold (unlikely due to the nature of the virus, but let’s just say), how many would flock out to get it? And I wonder how weak everyone’s immune system would become? For the low-risk illnesses, best just to supplement ourselves with proper nutrition and, if we get sick, let it run its course…

happy fourth!

July 4, 2014

For those of us in the US… happy July 4th! It is our Independence Day.

And for all of us everywhere… take this day to celebrate your independence. I am happy that, in spite of my MS diagnosis, I am able to live and move independently. I try not to waste a single day.

Celebrate your freedom! I hope you all are enjoying the weekend. (This is always the unofficial start to the Seattle summer–it’s when our nice weather usually starts! Let’s see if that holds true…)

subtle reminders

July 1, 2014

Happy Canada Day to my northern neighbors… only a mere 130 miles to my north, currently!

So, after all of my more recent abdominal surgery medical crises I almost think the point of it all is so that I “forget” I have MS. And, really, when you have immediate pain that is a symptom of something potentially life threatening, a chronic problem is merely background noise. Particularly since I only have a little weakness on my left side.

Now that I’m getting back to the gym (pending intermittent nausea and gut issues) I can tell that there were several months that I couldn’t really lift… my strength just isn’t there. This is frightening, as someone with MS, since I know I have trouble building muscle. I was hoping to never have another lengthy medical layoff again for that reason…

But it is what it is, and I can only move forward. Really, I don’t notice any signs of MS day to day, aside from that minor left side weakness. Unfortunately it’s a tad amplified when I work out right now. I wobble a lot when I do lunges, and I used to only wobble a little.

I’ll chalk it up to my long layoff from real workouts, and be optimistic that I’ll fully regain the strength in my legs!