Feet. Forgive me for choosing a pedestrian subject for this week’s blog, but it’s been a strange week that seems to be all about feet, or the synonym, feat.
I’ve recently been addressing some health issues, things to do with misaligned vertebrae and unexplained sensations of heat in the back of my left leg. My GP recommended a cranial sacral specialist for the first condition and a chiropractor who blends her practice with sports medicine for the second.
I shared my experience with the cranial sacral specialist earlier this month. This past Monday I had my first session with the chiropractor. I was deeply impressed by the energy and earnestness of this young doc, who believes passionately in medical practitioners and their patients sharing the responsibility for improving the patient’s health. Her reasoning is simple and logical: she can adjust a patient and they will feel better in the short term, but patients will not improve much in the long term if they don’t work to change how they do things with their bodies.
That makes perfect sense.
Yes, it does, Lily. You know how your knees don’t bend very much without taking your heels off the ground?
Yes. It makes me really bad at ballet.
What would you think if I told you that, all these years later, I’m finally starting to understand why that happens and how I can fix it?
I thought I was bad at ballet because I never practiced?
That was part of it, 9, but it’s not the whole story.
No one has ever accused me of having pretty feet, but until this Monday I didn’t realize my feet were complicit in my inflexible knees. After a series of diagnostic tests, the chiropractor confirmed that, yes, my calf muscles were incredibly tight, but that the source of this problem (and the calf muscles seizing the sciatic nerve, which was causing the odd heat in the back of my leg) was lack of flexibility in my ankles.
Certainly not me, Lily! After doing what Doc calls soft tissue work (adjusting my hips and neck with four mighty cracks) she asked me to stand and, barefooted, attempt some toe exercises. The exercises are simple: raise the big toe while keeping the other four on the ground, raise the other four while keeping the big toe on the ground, etc. This, she explained, is how I get my feet and my brain talking to each other again, which will ultimately facilitate ankle strength and flexibility, and increase my ability to bend my knees.
After four days of diligent effort, I am already seeing improvement but these exercises are difficult for me. I am finally starting to get a little bit of movement and control in my big toes and the next three, but my stubbly little toes (though they feel the strain of effort) barely move at all.
I’ve made some discoveries along the way. It’s easier to see if I’m making progress if I do the exercises in front of a mirror with a bright light shining from above. That way, I can see if toes are lifted or on the ground by looking at the shadow they cast (or not).
Also, after the first three days I noticed the quad muscles in my thighs were really sore. I hadn’t been doing more than the usual amount of walking, Nordic Track, Pilates and Yoga, so the soreness perplexed me, until I did my first daily round of foot exercises. Aha! I was straining through my thighs to lift my toes! I’ve since focused on using the muscles in my heels and ankles to do the work.
That sounds hard.
It is, 9, but Doc won’t keep me as a patient if I don’t do the homework she assigns. Besides, as Lily is starting to understand and as I’ve learned over the decades, learning to do something hard usually pays off. I fully hope to improve the health and strength of my feet and ankles, which will improve my overall health. Stuff like this gets more important with age, when it’s harder to bounce back from pain and injury.
So that’s the part about Feet. Moving on to the synonym, Feat, I managed a pretty amazing one this Monday when I needed urgent medical attention for Friday kitty. He’s about fifteen and was experiencing a noticeable drop in appetite and all that goes with it. I knew it would take a couple of days to get in at our regular vet’s. Turns out he was on vacation and the first appointment I could get was 8 days out- -not an option when a guy has stopped eating.
Next I called some other Walla Walla vet clinics. The first one I talked to, though they have four or five vets on staff, wasn’t taking new patients. The receptionist gave me that names of a couple other practices that she thought might be taking new patients. The one in Walla Walla offered an appointment 8 days out. No go. Everyone mentioned I could always take Friday to the emergency vet in Pasco, WA, 50 miles away. If you’ve ever taken a sick animal on a 50 mile car trip you know how much distress that can cause them.
The other referral was for a vet in Milton-Freewater, OR. A different state, yes, but only 10 miles from home. They had an “urgent care” slot available the next day. I pounced. It was a much shorter trip for Friday and I received not only the news that he was really in pretty good shape but was provided with lots of details about the blood panel results and his overall condition. This kind of information has been minimal from our regular vet since COVID, and the attendant labor shortages that seem to be driving the lack of available veterinary care in Walla Walla.
Friday was given a cortisone injection that eased his minor discomforts and did, in fact, stimulate his appetite. If this droops again, the vet has an appetite stimulant we can try.
A long day, and an amazing feat, especially as Friday is home and feeling well.
This week of Feet reminds me of a theater piece I saw freshman year at Whitman College. You remember the impersonators that used to be on TV, people like Rich Little who did a beautiful job of being Richard Nixon, for example? A classmate of mine did a bit he called “Amazing Feet,” a far out take on celebrity impressions. His set was a refrigerator box, painted black with a large rectangle cut out at the bottom. He sat on a stool within the box, hidden from view except when his hand appeared in the cutout, holding a placard lettered with the name of a celebrity. There was a blackout. When the lights came on, he had lowered his feet, dressed for impersonation.
Picture it: Jacques Cousteau represented by feet in flippers. The lowering of Santa’s boots into the frame.
Simple. Brilliant. Hilarious. An amazing feat.
The world is full of creative ways to improve health, and inventive outlets for creative expression. All you have to do is try.
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