October 31, 2015

Electrical Stimulation with NeuroMove

My hand was completely flaccid for three month after my stroke.  I did not get motion back until I started using an electrical stimulation device called NeuroMove.  Electrical stimulation strengthens muscles, but NeuroMove also has a biofeedback component.  I was able to watch a line on a monitor creep higher and higher as I thought about moving my hand.  That immediate feedback kept me focused and working hard even when I did not see movement.  When my muscle activity finally got above the threshold line, I got a few seconds of stimulation and was rewarded with a visible hand motion.  However, NeuroMove would not help me until I made a sincere attempt to recruit the muscles that open my hand.  Equally important, NeuroMove would not repeat the stimulation until I completely relaxed the muscles I just used.  Muscle re-education after a stroke includes learning to recruit AND relax muscles.

I tried other electrical stimulation devices that do not have a biofeedback component.  They stimulated my muscles at pre-set intervals or when I pushed a button.  I could not coordinate my efforts with those devices.  In the beginning it took me 20 seconds to figure out how to recruit a muscle and another 20 seconds to make that muscle relax.  NeuroMove patiently waited for me.  The other machines zapped me whether I was ready or not.  It was like trying to dance with a really bad partner who kept jerking me around the dance floor.  I finally gave up trying and daydreamed while devices without a biofeedback component worked my muscles. 

I could feel my hand when other people moved it, but did not have a clue about where the muscles were that I wanted to control.  Neuroplasticity allows stroke survivors to grow new connections in the brain, but that does not mean we can find them. The biofeedback component of NeuroMove helped me find connections I did not know I had.  NeuroMove stimulated muscles AND helped me retrain my brain.

October 27, 2015

The Garden Hose Won and My Back Lost

As the oldest daughter, I learned to pretend to be calm when bad things happened to my younger siblings, like my sister falling off her bike and shoving her two front teeth into her gums.  So I was surprised to hear myself crying hysterically while I talked to a 911 operator.  I had to crawl to the phone because my back muscles were spasming so badly I could not stand up.  Two days earlier I had fallen on my patio while wrestling with a garden hose.  I did not stand up straight after I connected the hose.  I think I tripped over the hose as I took a big step to regain my balance.  The black rectangle shows the small space I had to maneuver in.  When I am inside I prevent falls by clearing the space I have to work in.  Now I will transfer that strategy to outside.  A friend put that stiff garden hose on the curb for garbage collection.  I will buy a more flexible hose in the spring.

Five years ago a bone scan showed my lumber spine have osteoporosis I am glad the CT scan the ER doctor ordered did not find any fractures.  However, intense back spasms made it impossible for me to walk.  Fortunately, 36 hours of taking a muscle relaxant while in the hospital made it possible for me to return home with home health services.  Once I got home and wanted to do more than sit up in bed I noticed the muscle relaxant made me really tired.  When I stopped taking the medication my back got much stiffer.

My back is especially stiff in the morning.  I have to lie on a heating pad, do gentle leg lifts under the covers, and take an extra strength Tylenol so I can do more than hobble around the house.  After I sit for 30 minutes I have to lie down and do gentle back stretches.  My home health PT finally had me walk outdoors.  After walking about 6 car lengths, the hip muscles that I fell on started to burn.  The only thing that relieved this burning was taking the small steps I use when I walk on grass.  What a bummer.  Thank goodness I start out-patient PT soon.

October 17, 2015

Snow Strategies Are Here

It is October and I cannot believe I already have to use my first snow strategy.  I am paying for the frostbite I endured when I was growing up because girls were not allowed to wear pants to high school.  Imagine walking a mile in below freezing weather with bare knees because you are wearing a skirt and knee high socks.  I arrived at school with hard, white blotches of frostbite every cold winter day.  I think the repeated frostbite killed the oil glands in my skin.  The skin on my legs is extremely dry so I have to apply skin cream after every shower even though it is still 20 degrees above freezing.  

After I put on my underwear and top I use my teeth to pull a disposable glove on my sound hand so I will not get skin cream in my hair and make-up.  I sit on the closed seat of my toilet and pump a line of skin cream on one thigh.  With my sound index finger I pick up skin cream and spread it on my calves and the front of both thighs.  I wish I could tell you how good this feels.  I let the skin cream soak in while I fix my hair and put on make-up.  No scratching dry skin through my pants.  The skin cream has the same subtle scent as my shower gel so there are no
                                                     competing odors.  Happy.  Happy.  Happy.