Movement Recovery After Surgery (Part 2)

I am almost two weeks post-surgery and things are going really well. I’m feeling no pain when at rest and only slight discomfort if I push the limits of standing and walking. Thankfully I’m quite in tune with what my body feels and I listen very carefully to the messages it’s giving me.

I’m currently using a technique we employ in Clinical Somatics that is helping quite a bit; it’s called “means-whereby.” Means-whereby is the technique that FM Alexander used in his specific method of Somatic Education. It is an exploration of range of motion, done in a slow, exploratory way in order to notice and sense how you can and cannot move. There is never any forcing involved in means-whereby – only gentle movement, honoring your limits. This is beginning to bring back my ability to voluntarily move my toes; after almost two weeks of a sense of disconnection from my foot, this is a welcome improvement!

Restoring movement to the toes

Here’s what I’m doing: I’m passively flexing and extending my big toe several times, never going into a painful stretch. I’m testing my limits of comfort. Then I do the same thing with the other four toes. I follow with several repetitions of active flexion and extension of my toes and ankle, then move into inversion and eversion of my foot (which can be found on my Pain-Free Leg & Hip Joints or Pain-Free Athletes DVD). I can feel that jumpy, jerky, and shaky quality of movement so common in Sensory Motor Amnesia (SMA). This has developed due to having to keep my foot very still and then compensating when I walk —I’m currently putting more pressure on my heel so as not to place full weight on my front foot yet; I’m not ready for that. Because of this, the muscles of my lower leg are very tight.

How tension and compensation affect the body

This experience is a solid reminder of how heel pain can develop when you land predominantly on your heel and do not roll through to the front of your foot as you push off to take your next step. At the moment I cannot roll through my foot as I normally do, nor can I allow my hips to swing naturally. This has also created calf pain. This kind of unbalanced gait, while necessary for compensation until my foot is fully healed, could potentially lead to plantar fasciitis. I’m not concerned, however, since my daily Somatic Movement practice will restore balance in the center of my body and ultimately restore my gait to its normal, balanced state so that I can walk freely and easily.

One thing that is common after surgery that I’m now dealing with is fear: the fear of putting full weight on my foot and moving through the discomfort (not pain, just discomfort). I know my stitches are not going to burst and I know my bone is healing; my doctor assured me of this. Yet fear creates muscle tension and less than fluid coordination, which I can certainly feel. Our emotions create a muscular response in our bodies, and it can be hard to notice and correct those responses without a Somatic Movement practice.

So, what do you do? Graded exposure. Take things one step at a time (pun intended) and in small doses. Let your physical sensations and pain level be your guide, then add a little bit more each day until you’re beginning to feel comfortable and you trust your body. Know that you are merely going through a process in which patience is primary. Your body knows how to heal, so don’t rush it!

Additional foot explorations

For those of you looking to become more acquainted with your feet and relieve foot pain and tension, Laura Gates, CHSE has a wonderful 3-minute video to guide you through a few foot explorations. I look forward to doing these movements myself in the near future!