Movement Recovery After Surgery (Part 1)

I spent years as a professional dancer and model stuffing my feet into shoes that were often too small for my (very large) feet. I also danced in high heels and walked in fashionable, yet deeply uncomfortable shoes. Rarely did my feet feel comfortable and relaxed; this resulted in compensation for the discomfort in my feet and ultimately created structural problems in the form of hammertoes and bunions. I finally made the choice to have a large, painful bunion taken off my right foot and a hammertoe straightened and fixed. These structural issues were getting in the way of my favorite activity — hiking — and I’m too young to be hampered by them.

I’m very grateful for a skilled surgeon to fix what I cannot fix on my own, but now the task falls to me to use my Somatic Movement practice to re-educate my feet (once my foot is fully healed), legs, and center so that I can hike for as long as I live.

In the next several blog posts I will share my movement recovery with you so that anyone that is also undergoing or has undergone surgery will have the tools to recover their movement and prevent further musculoskeletal problems.

Pictured: Trauma Reflex while using crutches

Pictured: Trauma Reflex while using crutches

My first few days post-surgery have been spent resting and elevating my foot and carefully testing my movement limits.

I began using crutches when I arrived home and right away I began to feel the telltale contractions of the Trauma Reflex; my brain instantly hoisted my right hip up and my weight shifted to the left leg to take the weight off my foot. The voluntary part of my brain was focused on getting around without slipping or losing my balance. I will be using crutches for about a week and this pattern of shortening of one side of my torso to take the load off my healing foot will help me get around. It’s a very good thing — I just don’t want to get stuck it! For that reason the first movement I did as soon as I got settled in bed were Hip Hikers: slowly contracting one side of the waist as the other side released, then gradually lengthening it as the other side contracts. This gets the waist muscles back into smooth coordination with each other. It felt wonderful! I added my arms to this movement to create a gentle full body Human X. This movement released tension in my shoulder girdle and down into my back. I’ll be doing this movement quite a bit during my recovery.

Surgery isn’t just a “body” experience; it can have an emotional and psychological impact as well. It stops you in your tracks and demands rest and self-care and putting many things in your life on hold. I live an active lifestyle and being sedentary makes me anxious. Intellectually I know I need to rest, so my practice, even if for a few brief minutes, resets my brain to bring me fully into the present moment, with less fear, less tension, and more connection to my bodies.

Using crutches is a vigorous activity. If I get tired and slump down into the crutches it creates discomfort in my armpits and causes me to tighten and round forward in the center of my body. I’m using the crutches as a way to stand as tall as possible and use my arms to support me. This will help keep my front open and my breathing easy.

In just a few weeks from now I will be able to start putting full weight on my foot. I may have pain in my periphery (the foot), but it doesn’t mean my center (my waist, back, abdominals, and ribs) can’t move and relax. My practice will prepare me to walk with balance again. I’ll be doing seated Somatic Movements as well, and, when I can get up and down off the floor again I will return to the basic Somatic Movements we all need, beginning with arch and flatten and ending with the walking movements part 1 & 2. You can find this routine of basics on the Pain Relief Through Movement DVD.