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Are you practicing the problem?



Neuroplasticity=changing your brain. It is a key to improving after a stroke. And, science tells us that changes occur due to repetition. Lots of repetition!

A great thing about walking is that lots of repetition is built right into the activity. It can be simple to work into our daily lives and it is functional. The way I see it, walking is a simple activity that utilizes Neuroplasticity.

The question I ask my clients is…”What are you practicing?”. It may not be a direct question, but I am looking at how a person is moving around in their daily life and aksing myself, “Could this person’s way of moving be more therapeutic?”.

Often the answer is yes. And, generally there are some simple things that can be done to help increase how therapeutic walking is.

For someone with “mild foot drop” adding a simple tool is often the second thing I recommend. (the first thing is stretching 🙂).

A Stroke Survivor with “mild foot drop” is someone who I feel has some lift in their foot when they are walking. But, the lift is not equal to their less affected side. What I know to be true when this is happening, is that the person is making adjustments throughout their body to ensure that the more affected foot does not catch things. Maybe they are walking more slowly, or always looking at their feet, or hiking their hip or… you get it. These things happen naturally. Our brain seems designed to keep us going even if the way we are doing it is not the natural way of moving before the stroke.

There are ways that we automatically compensate for the missing piece. In this case, the missing piece is “full foot lift”.

With every step, a person is practicing those compensations. And, if a person chooses to walk for long distances or try to get same distance in less time, the compensations can get more pronounced.

I look for ways to help minimize the body’s tendency to compensate. In this case of “mild foot drop” I recommend some external device to help the foot lift. Sometimes it is a full blown specially fabricated ankle foot orthosis (foot brace). Sometimes it is a commercially available foot assist device. I recommend the thing that I think will be the most helpful.

Often, in these situations, the clients I am working with have never had anything to help with the foot lifting. Maybe since there was some active movement, the recommendation was not made. But, doing something to minimize compensation and move toward a more typical movement in the foot achieves the goal of making walking more therapeutic. With the foot lifting in a more typical way, your body does not have to make the compensations and each step you take can be more therapeutic.

The thing to realize is that you may have been practicing the compensations for long periods of time. In that case, taking time to “unlearn” the compensations so you can begin to change your walking to be more typical is a process you may need to undertake.

But, all that change is worth it if your desire is to improve your walking to be easy and more natural.

If you are interested in a consultation with me to look at your current home program to improve your walking and balance, you can go here to book a time.


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