ALS is a thief. Not only is the disease difficult to diagnose, it is insidiously sneaky— like a thief— in that it robs people of their ability to move muscles.
I have a physical therapist who has become quite innovative at helping me to help my muscles move. Some muscles I can control well but I am losing control of many other muscles.
For example, respiratory onset ALS weakens breathing muscles but other muscles often are less affected. So, my physical therapist recommended that I hold onto my roller walker and stand up straight. I cannot do that on my own but I can with the roller walker. Standing up straight helps to stretch and strengthen unused muscles and reduce cramps.
Wait. There’s more.
Added to the stretch of standing upright I was given instructions to stand on my toes (with multiple repetitions). That increases blood flow to my feet and strengthens legs. I was given instructions to squat. That helped to increase strength, too, and I don’t get too out of breath because the ventilator does the breathing for me.
What about the stick of gold?
While arm strength has been good over the past year, in recent weeks shoulders, arms, and even fingers have begun to weaken; range of motion has been reduced to a point where it has become difficult to put on my ventilator mask.
See the problem?
I need to be able to lift my arms above my head so I can pull the mask over my head and onto my face. That once simple process has become a challenge. I mentioned to my physical therapist that I was having a problem with shoulder and arm range of motion.
After determining that a block and pulley and rope would not be an acceptable addition to our ceiling, she looked around the living room and noticed we have a few walking sticks and umbrellas in a stand by the door. She pulled out a stick, grabbed one end with one hand and the other end with the other hand and pushed the stick upwards. That lifted her arm up high and over her head and raised her shoulder.
I grinned. That stick is gold.
So, I grabbed the stick and gripped one end with one hand and the other end with my other hand and pushed the stick upwards. That lifted and stretched my arm and shoulder over my head, too. The stretch also increased my shoulder and arm range of motion almost immediately and it’s now part of my daily physical therapy sessions.
Who knew a stick could be gold?