It’s been a while since I’ve talked about Parkinson’s Disease. The good news is I’m on my same basic medication I wrote about in Part 8- Medications… the Road to Levodopa and Part 9- Medications… All in Good Time. Though I know I will probably not decrease the amount of medication I take daily, its good not to have to increase.
There are two terms used in Parkinson’s I want to describe to you. The first one, ‘gate‘ describes the pattern of movement of the limbs of humans and animals. In PD, ‘gate’ is the slow shuffling movement of feet, arms noted for a lack of movement, shoulders and head leaning forward. This is why they call Parkinson’s the shrinking disease because your gate misleading makes it seem as though you’ve lost stature.
The second term, ‘freezing’ describes the hesitation one feels from getting up from a chair or coming to a doorway or corner. Walking is a mindful experience with PD… yes, you’re actually having to think about walking. When coming to an obstacle, indecision or freezing occurs until you can get acclimated again. The loss of focus from the mind because of disruption of its thought process is disorienting… this lapse of time in physical and mental hesitancy can cause you to fall.
In the last two months, I have fallen twice. The first fall was on concrete, but I managed, to role with it so my body absorbed most of the contact with the surface of the cement. I was a little sore and shaken, mostly my ego, and tried to write it off as an accident; “It happens to everyone”, I assured myself. Yes, I knew all about ‘freezing gate’ in my reading of PD but until now it was something that happened to other people with Parkinson’s.
My second fall, again on concrete, I was not so lucky. My I-Phone, in my left hand, hit the concrete and the glass busted then my face hit the cement along with the rest of me. I had scrapes on my face, hands, arms and legs along with blood. Both incidences happened so fast, I hadn’t had time to react.
Most of my friends thought I had gotten into a fight or at lease something of substance must have caused such a fall and the bruises I displayed. However what I was doing when I fell both times was walking. Yes, walking. It’s indeed ironic that what I do for exercise and as being good for me is also the thing that could and did harm me. And it all comes down to my gate, freezing, and not being mindful. Before I had fallen, I was ripe for an accident since my torso was already leaning forward and then freezing occurred, as my feet suddenly stop and projected me headfirst, already down for the count.
I saw my neurologist the next week and his recommendation was to walk with a cane. I must admit I hesitated at his suggestion; a little too embarrassed. But I reclaimed my ego and bought one soon after. I mean, would I rather be constantly landing on my face. I acquired a few more of these ‘walking sticks’ as it is convenient to have one in my car and in other strategic locations. I also studied a YouTube video on how to properly walk with a cane; yes there is a method to it including height, angle and how to hold it properly. It’s more like an art form, like learning a new dance step.
So does it work? I guess the real test is if I fall again which I hope doesn’t happen. However, I can see a marked improvement in how I walk which would prevent another fall. Pressure on the cane helps keep my torso straight, upright, bracing me against falling instead of its tendency to want to slouch and lean forward. The cane and its constant patterned tapping on the ground keeps me mindful of my feet while walking or you could say the cane and my feet harmonize in rhythm to each other.