Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Reaching Goals With Daily Decisions

The beginning of each year is a popular time for resolutions – eat better, lose weight, exercise regularly – you know the routine. Did you make any New Year’s resolutions?

I didn’t really make any resolutions, but I did decide to continue a new routine I started after Halloween, 13 weeks or 1/4 of a year ago. So here it is one month into the year and I’m already three months into new habits and working steadily towards some rather large goals that will take an unknown amount of time to accomplish.

I thought it would be cool to share some of my accomplishments since I started keeping track on November 1, 2014. During the past 13 weeks…

I have worn a Fitbit device everyday and used the app to record food and physical activity. According to Fitbit, I have taken 350,995 steps, climbed 534 floors, and walked 148.84 miles. That sounds pretty cool. But I was even more excited to figure out that I’ve ridden the exercise bike at home for a total of 43 hours and cycled for over 500 miles! Whoohoo! I’ve also gained muscle, increased flexibility, reduced spasticity, and lost 14.5 pounds in the process!!

I started riding the exercise bike to combat the pain of osteoarthritis (OA) in my knees. At first, I could literally only ride for about 5 minutes. Even this low level of activity would illicit increased spasticity in my legs. My orthopedic doctor is the one who suggested that I ride the bike. We learned in September that I have Grade 2/3 cartilage loss in my left knee. Grade 4 is the worst it gets before surgery is required. He says I will eventually need surgery.

By November, I was able to ride for 15-20 minutes without causing spasticity. Now I’m able to ride 45-50 minutes almost everyday at a speed of about 12-13 miles/hour. I also started physical therapy for my knee and have learned quite a bit about what I need to do to strengthen my leg muscles and maximize flexibility around my joints.

I had to relearn how to control the thigh muscle that lifts the knee cap. The first time my PT asked me to contract that particular muscle, I thought I was doing it, but absolutely nothing happened. There was a complete disconnect between my brain and that one muscle. As a result, my kneecap had become extraordinarily stiff and somewhat frozen in place. No wonder my knee was causing so much pain.

While working with my PT, I discovered that if I took a little bit more medication for spasticity, I experienced less knee pain at night. So an MS symptom, spasticity, was very likely making my OA pain worse. I had not connected the two in my mind.

It still amazes me sometimes how one health issue can sneak around and increase symptoms associated with a different health issue. It becomes rather complicated at times. Nothing occurs in a vacuum.

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