This is another big part of the treatment that I have for my CP which enables me to maintain such an active lifestyle and keep up with the level of mobility that I currently have. Physio involves stretches and mobility exercises. When I was really small I had daily physio sessions, then growing up I continued to have them regularly. This is because as with my other treatment for CP it is most important when growing as my leg muscles are changing and developing.
Throughout school I have distinct memories of going into my parents’ bedroom every morning before school to do my stretches. I hated it and it always felt like such a waste of time-there were so many better things to be doing with my time. Dad would help me do a number of stretches to my calves and hamstrings. Mum and Dad would always try to find ways to make this more fun and enjoyable, one example of this was when sitting with my feet on the floor I had to lift my toes up to let the train through under the bridge. Unfortunately for the train my left leg is tighter than my right so it was often a very tight squeeze to get through. As I got older, it was up to me to do my stretches myself and this would result in lots of pestering from Mum and Dad (I am sure everyone was nagged by their parents to tidy their room or do the washing up, I just had an extra item on that list! Lucky me!) In addition to this, when out walking, I was always reminded to think about my walking and put my heel down. This really annoyed me as I felt it so unfair that others didn’t need to think about their walking and could just enjoy the sunshine on a Sunday stroll. In fairness, it was not every time and I was equally unfair by just jumping straight back at Mum or Dad whenever it was raised. Despite all this, again it has meant that I am more aware of it as an adult when I am walking on my own and will nag myself every now and then (although not as much as Mum and Dad would like). As much as I hated being made to do my stretches at the time, I am grateful that it became part of my daily routine so that I could continue to do it myself when I left home. I know that my stretches help with my walking and mobility but even today I struggle to work out whether I have become worse over time. It is only through Mum and Dad’s comments that I know if I am doing enough.
As well as doing my stretches at home I had regular appointments with physios at hospital and hydrotherapy appointments in the swimming pool. This was so that I could be monitored to ensure that my mobility was not deteriorating. During these physio sessions I would perform a number of different exercises, some as simple as standing up from a kneeling position. Let me tell you now, this is not as easy as it sounds for someone with CP. As my balance is off and my muscles are tight, even just kneeling takes more work. Then trying to stand is a different ball game as the balance just gets thrown across the rounders pitch! My arms come out to play again (crucifixion style). Also the easiest way for me to stand from kneeling is to bring my legs around the side to put my foot on the floor. During my physio sessions I would spend countless hours practicing bringing my leg up to standing through the middle which was much harder due to my tight legs. It was also very important to have intensive physio after my botox injections to ensure they were as effective as possible.
In addition, on one occasion, I had a gait clinic. This involved being covered in a number of stickers which connected to wires linking to a pack on my back. I then walked up and down a very long room about 50 times. The end wall was covered in a giant picture of a moon so I remember thinking of this jazzy outfit as my space suit and telling all my friends I had been to space when I came back to school. The purpose of the many, many steps was to try to recreate my gait. At the end of the clinic, a computer recreated my legs so I could see what my bones looked like when walking. The only issue with this was as I was walking up and down, I was told to walk normally, however, as I was being watched I automatically put on my good walking. I suppose that was the purpose of the long walk to the moon, so that eventually by normal walking pattern would materialise.
Although it may sound as though I didn’t enjoy physio (at the time I certainly didn’t!) I was lucky enough to have some very caring and professional physios looking after me. Their endless patience and kind nature meant that I would persevere despite my frustrations at the stretches being too difficult, boring or painful. Despite my temper tantrums at what felt like constantly being told to walk properly and stretch, I have now built habits and routines that enable me to continue to do this independently.