Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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Dancing out the Toxins

October 2, 2016

At the beginning of this year I had a terrible rash. It went all up my right arm, down my right side and also a little on my left arm. It was driving me mad and eventually I sought some help and went to see a herbalist. She gave me some clay to use on the rash and a herbal tincture to take medicinally. She also got me into foraging for wild herbs and making drinks; mainly cleavers cold infusion and nettle and sweet violet teas. On top of this she advised that I may have to give up dairy produce. We have the most wonderful local farm; a biodynamic community farm that produces the best ever milk, great cheddar cheese and good yoghurt and kefir; all unpasteurised and so full those natural enzymes important for digestion. I’ve always liked dairy produce and so was loathed to give it up, but although the clay and herbs were helping, the rash continued to drive me mad so I decided to try going ‘dairy free’. Within 48 hours the inner tension in me began to ease and my skin started to improve. The difference was remarkable and it became clear that dairy produce was doing me no favours at all and I haven’t touched it since. Throughout my life I have struggled on and off a little with eczema and I may have always been intolerant to dairy, but never had I suffered with a rash like this.

Just after giving up dairy produce (and with the rash still far from healed), I made my six monthly visit to Belgium to see Leonid Blyum, my rehabilitation consultant, and although he appreciated the dairy side of things, he had another take on why my skin had come out in such a rash at this time. On each visit he conducts a thorough examination of my body and six months before was the first time he noticed that my skin had not had a smell to it. This time the greasiness had gone. For years my skin had been dead, not dead as in decaying but dead as in not playing its proper functional role in the life of the body, and now it was coming back to life. He suggested that my skin had been a dumping ground and the rash was my skin ridding itself of the toxins built up in it. To give an analogy, imagine a city where the waste is dumped outside of the city wall. The land becomes toxic, but doesn’t cause the city any problems until one day the city expands and the waste ground needs to be built upon. That land then becomes incorporated into the life of the city and the land needs to be cleaned up; the toxicity must be dealt with.

Slowly the clean up process continued until there was very little sign of a rash on my body, but then things started to creep back in again. The rash was beginning to return on my arm. There was a soreness around my eyes and I was getting a rash on my legs. The skin on my face has been sensitive this year. We’ve had a good summer in England (by English standards at least) and it’s been hard to cope with the sun on my face. I’m not a sun worshipper, but I am an outdoor person and normally I love the sun on my face, but this year it has been too much. I’ve often suffered with chilblains on my legs and feet during the winters since I’ve been disabled. These are something you can be inflicted with when there is poor circulation in your skin. I’ve also struggled with the skin breaking down in between my little toes which is due to serious lack of quality at the extremity of paralysed limbs, but never have I suffered with a rash on my legs before. To come out in a rash the skin needs to have life to it and until now my legs have lacked the quality for the skin to be alive enough to come out in a rash. Unlike before, there was no inner tension associated with the skin trouble, in fact I don’t think I have ever had such inner calmness, but I did feel the need to rest a lot and allow my body to deal with whatever was going on.

Two weeks ago I had work to do Saturday morning and then spent the afternoon and evening resting. Sunday morning I felt fit to go and see the Levellers perform on Hastings Pier. It was the 25th anniversary tour of their ‘Levelling the Land’ album and I hadn’t seen them since shortly after that album was released. They were as good as ever and we danced our heads off. I haven’t let myself go like that for a long time. Dancing is almost as good as laughter when it comes to an inner workout and it’s also a great releaser of tension. That night I got home and couldn’t sleep. My skin was alive and throbbing and there seemed like a great outpouring. By the morning I was in a hell of a mess. My face was red and blotchy with the skin around my eyes puffed up. I had come out in a spotty rash up my arms and on my hands and torso. I was totally drained and had to just sit and be quiet. I felt such a need for my body to be quiet that I fasted for two days with nothing but water with a drop of lemon oil.

This truly was an outpouring from the skin. Another wave of the skin coming to life and ridding itself of a build up of toxins. After a few days I felt much better and my skin is clearing up. What is more it feels more alive and seems to have more robustness to it. It is typical for development to come in waves, but this was not so much a wave as a tsunami! I really did dance the toxins out of me that night and it was such a tsunami that, with any luck, any future waves in the process of skin development will be insignificant in comparison.

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Comfort Zone & Laughter

September 12, 2016

The other weekend I met someone who told me about her trip to Sri Lanka, to volunteer at a turtle sanctuary. She spoke of how she had to step out of her comfort zone in order to make the trip. She’d never done the travelling bit, rarely flown and certainly never been as far from home before. There was the physical necessity of dealing with the heat and humidity, but generally speaking the barriers to overcome were psychological. I’m pleased to say she had a great holiday.

Many disabled people struggle to expand the boundaries of their psychological comfort zone. They stay at home too much and become inward looking rather than outgoing and social. They resign themselves, often through the lack of proper therapeutic support, to a life of immobile wheelchair use rather than challenging and invigorating their bodies. I have never struggled in this regard, but my outgoing active lifestyle can often lead me to pay attention to my physical comfort zone. This has nothing to do with psychological barriers, but rather the restraints placed upon you due to the nature of your physical ability.

One of the arts of being disabled is learning to live within your physical comfort zone. It’s an art that I like to think I pull off well, but occasionally I step out of that comfort zone, particularly on a weekend away, and then have to devote extra time to looking after myself to return to the comfort zone. I said that many disabled people spend too much time at home and this is true, but the counter side to this is that a home base is more important than ever once you find yourself disabled. My home is the only place where I can truly relax. It is a space that is specifically designed so that I can get out of my wheelchair, move around freely and easily and relax in just the right arrangement of cushions, and of course conduct ABR Therapy. The needs of most able bodied people are shared with the vast majority of others and those physical needs tend to be easily met round a friends house, in the pub or even camping, but when you find yourself severely disabled, your needs are much more specific and are harder to be truly met anywhere other than your own home.

A trip to Rudgwick Steam Rally took me a little out of my comfort zone. A couple of friends of mine run an autojumble stall there and so I went to hang out with them for a day and a night. I travelled lightly with just enough to survive, but even if I took more with me I couldn’t really cater for my specific physical needs, so I resign myself to having to work hard physically to keep it all together. I’m either sitting in a wheelchair, a camping chair or on the floor and all require attention to posture. A camping chair you can slump into, but that will strain my back so I’d rather make the effort to sit cross legged on the floor, a position that’s demanding and can only be kept for so long. To a certain degree everyone is roughing it for the weekend, but when you can’t stand up and stroll around for relief it takes a little more to be comfortable and so I work a little harder and go home with a little more need to look after myself and when you laugh as much as we did that weekend it makes it all worth it.

People say that laughter is the best medicine, but why? Again we have the physical and psychological components. Psychologically, laughter is about switching off, leaving the worries behind and being care free. The clue to the physical component is in the fact that laughter can hurt. When someone is injured, with cracked ribs for example, you have to be careful not to make them laugh and too much laughter can make even a healthy person hurt. This is because laughter works into the deepest level of the body. It effectively works, or exercises, the very core of our bodies; our intrinsic capacity. Laughter is not something we consciously control in the way that we use our skeletal muscles. We can make ourselves laugh, but that is essentially faking laughter. True laughter is uncontrollable. Even if it is hurting us it can be very difficult to stop laughing.

Since we have brought my spine back to life, and it once again plays a functional role in the body as a structural element, I have been able to feel the damage to my vertebrae. For many years my spine floated around inside my body playing no functional role and I had no awareness of the damage to it and never suffered from back pain. Once brought to life, I had to be very careful for a while how I used my body. The spine had returned to being a structural component, but was very weak. Since then we have strengthened it enormously, but we have a long way to go before it is truly strong. When I laughed at Rudgwick, that weekend, I was acutely aware of the damage to my spine. If we laughed any harder it would have been too much, but as it was my spine received a good intensive workout.

A workout in the gym will build up muscular strength and if you’re in reasonably good shape to begin with it will work into the deep intrinsic levels, but if you’re out of shape in the first place, it will be a very inefficient way of getting fit, if not damaging. Laughter on the other hand will give us all a good workout.

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Cheating’s Easy, Strength is Hard

July 10, 2016

As a newly injured paraplegic who is asked to make the most of what strengths he has in order to return to life as an independent person, there is only one option and that is to cheat. When a body is as intrinsically damaged as that of a paraplegic even the use of the arms is impaired, despite muscular function remaining in those limbs. One of the first jobs in the physio gym is to learn to sit without back support. Weeks of bed rest doesn’t help, but this is not really why it is difficult. Much of the body’s capacity to support itself is missing and so you have to learn to compensate with the strengths you have and this is essentially cheating. You learn to balance that part of you that remains alive on top of the lifeless structure below. Once this balance is achieved, then you learn to use your upper body to perform all sorts of alien manoeuvres in order to find ways to carry on with life.

It is not that this approach is wrong, and in fact it works well and before long you have the capability to look after yourself as an independent person, but it is important to understand the reality of this approach in terms of the bio-mechanics of the body. With extremely depleted intrinsic capacity, you are calling upon the use of muscles that have only limited foundation, so in order for that muscular function to be achieved, foundation is created by collapsing, deforming and locking up the trunk to provide a false foundation upon which muscular function can be based.

The approach works so well that, not only did I throw myself back into life with all sorts of crazy adventures, but three years after my injury I found myself taking on a run down cottage with a large garden and field beyond. For a long time I’d dreamt of a smallholding and here was the chance to live that dream. The problem came when I embarked upon ABR Therapy, which is an approach that builds up true strength by rebuilding the depleted foundation. Not only is finding strength from cheating contrary to the way of ABR, but is counter productive to the therapy process. So now I had a dilemma. Did I give up the dream and give up the outgoing active lifestyle or did I somehow find a compromise. I instinctively knew that ABR Therapy was the way forward, even before I really understood the reality of my injury and the necessary process for recovery, and so had to pursue it, but at the same time I couldn’t give up the dream. Not only is rehabilitation through ABR Therapy a long term strategy, but I’d already spent four and a half years heading in the wrong direction (cheating) and so the process of true recovery was going to be even more protracted. Luckily I’m good at using a damaged body while at the same time being kind to it and living the dream is what’s given me the spirit to carry on at times.

So live the dream I have. I largely renovated a run down cottage, created a garden out of a rat infested rubbish tip and set up a smallholding in the unkempt field beyond. Over the years I have done an enormous amount of physical work, all of which was essentially done by cheating, with the way I use my body, but I have always managed to find ways which are kind on the body and use as little effort as possible. I’m pleased to say that I have also made fantastic progress over the years with ABR Therapy and that progress is accelerating the further into the process I go and my body is really shaping up.

The last few years of waking up deep structures has been truly bringing my body back to life. The long process of rehabilitation is more and more coming to fruition and I am finding strength in the true sense rather than through the cheating I have employed for so long. This has made me realise how easy cheating has been. My body was always fragile from the waist down, but above the waist the locked up structure in many ways gave me a fairly solid frame. Now that my body has opened up and is gaining structural integrity, the spine is once again playing its role as a structural element and the entire skeletal structure has come back into play. Although this has given me real strength of structure upon which to base muscular effort, it has brought with it a new fragileness that I have not been used to. Weaknesses that have been buried for so long are finally in a position to be strengthened, but to begin with come into play as weaknesses and must be nurtured into strength.

Over the last few years I have more and more had to ease off of the hard work to allow my body to settle into its new found strength. I’ve had to get more help to wrestle the sheep, cut and stack the firewood and trim the hedges. There are those that insist I’m just getting old, but I know otherwise and slowly but surely I am moving beyond this period of fragileness and soon I will have more strength than ever with which to run the smallholding. Cheating may have been easy and rediscovering true strength hard, but as I grow strong and live more comfortably I am reminded of how fragile my life really was as a spinally injured paraplegic.

I never regret choosing to live such an active life and keeping up your spirits is so important when you find yourself half the man you used to be, but as a cautionary word to all those paraplegics that I hope will take up this therapy, I strongly urge you not to live quite so on the edge as I have. Not to push the boundaries of physical ability, but to find a less physically demanding way of keeping your spirits up.

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Spammers and Skull Fissure

June 19, 2016

Finally I get to sit down and write a blog post. Yes I know, it’s been a long time coming. I spent the first three and a half months of this year building a new website, which taxed my skills to the limit. When it was finished I relaxed and got back to concentrating on the real therapy work. The trouble was I relaxed a little too soon. I logged into the back end of my website the other day to find five users online. This was a little strange seeing as I am the only user, so I clicked on the users tab and found that there were a thousand users! A friend had suggested that I have a forum on my site so that people could discuss the ideas I was presenting. It seemed like a good idea so I incorporated one. The last job before I published the website was working out how to enable people to register for the forum. In the end I discovered that I had to enable ‘user registration’ in the Joomla (content management systems) settings. I did so and all was up and running, but I had neglected to pay attention to the other settings that go with this and had inadvertently allowed users to register without my knowledge. A thousand spammers (or spambots) had registered on my forum and when I went to the forum I discovered 3,500 spam posts! Considering that I had to delete all these one page (twenty items) at a time, you can imagine how long it took. Once the spammers start getting in it attracts more and more so the numbers rise exponentially. Another week and they might have crashed my whole website. Once I adjusted the registration settings I thought the issue may be resolved, but not only did I get bulk email requests for registration, but the spambots find ways around the security and manage to register anyway. I disabled the user registration and took the forum offline.

So now I’ve got serious about website security. I have antivirus protection, which I previously thought was something you had for your computer not your website, a spam filter for blog post comments and the forum remains offline. I will look into ways of securing the forum, but may decide it was a step too far and discard it.

Despite the time wasting computer, I have been cracking on with the therapy work and continue to make progress. When we started working on my head, I didn’t understand that a head could change in its configuration, volume, density, shape etc, so was quite amazed when it did, and did dramatically. With damage to the spinal cord it is as though the tension is flushed out of the spine and this extends right up into the dura of the head, resulting in considerable depletion in the bio-mechanical quality of the structure of the head. Over the last few years I’ve had phase after phase of expansion and consolidation. The occipital region at the back of the head has been drawn back out, the sides of my skull are much more rounded, my face has filled out considerably and there is more strength in the connection of the jaw. A few months ago I noticed a tender spot on the side of my skull above the right ear. As I have continued to work extensively on my head this weakness has become more and more exposed. It became clear to me that this weakness is one that has remained from a fracture to the skull inflicted in an accident eight years before breaking my back. At the age of twenty I was run over by a car and my head was hit on the side by the sump of the engine. That’s a ton of metal travelling at at least 60mph! Not only was my skull fractured, but I contracted meningitis and have never heard in my right ear since.

Our bodies are amazingly clever at adapting, but are not all that good at actually healing by themselves. If the injury is slight then the body will recover fully, but with something more serious the body needs encouragement to heal. Many of us experience old injuries that come back to haunt us. The fracture to my skull was left to heal with time and once it had stopped hurting I assumed it was healed, but it appears that rather than truly heal, the skull simply closes up burying the weakness. This allows life to continue, but in a slightly depleted condition. With all the work I have done on my head, the skull has opened up and once again exposed the weakness from the original fracture. A week ago it felt like my skull had been fractured all over again with a fissure running up through the middle of the temporal bone and even up in to the parietal bone, but the good side to this is that, once the weakness is exposed you can then address it through the therapy techniques we use and truly heal it, all these years later.

ABR Therapy is giving me the opportunity to revisit a few old injuries and bring about healing that I never imagined possible after so many years. With all the recent development in my head, there is even a chance of hearing once again in my right ear, after 28 years of deafness.

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Newsite

April 11, 2016

Spinalroots Wordpress Blog

has now been incorporated into my new website at,

www.spinalroots.net

All existing posts have been copied across

and all future posts will be at the new address only.

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Rocking Chair

September 21, 2015

Rocking Chair

One of the things I love about ABR Therapy is that the principle of ‘no pain no gain’ doesn’t apply in quite the same way. Like any approach to improving your body, progress cannot be made without effort being applied, and with ABR Therapy improvements are seen over the course of ‘hundreds’ of hours of work.Exercising in Rocking Chair However, those hours of work generally involve the application of gentle inputs delivered into the body by hand. In some cases I can deliver those inputs myself, but in many cases I lie passively on a bench while another person delivers the inputs. There could be considered a pain endured in the dedication necessary to put in the hours of work and to stick with it to ensure that improvements come to fruition, but there is no pain of physical exertion.

I have developed an exercise using a rocking chair to input into the legs; the ankle joints in particular and also the knees. This is not a classic ABR exercise, but follows in the same vain, employing bio-mechanical principles and gentle inputs into deep structures of the body. The exercise takes focus and concentration, but is extremely relaxing and after a while can be performed on auto pilot while conscious attention is paid to reading a book, for example. I very much hope that this will help in bringing my ankles back to life after many years of total paralysis.

I will demonstrate the exercise in the following video.

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The Trininty of Health & Healing

July 31, 2015

Four years ago I wrote a post, entitled ‘My Three Great Teachers’, regarding those that had enlightened me to three spheres of life, the ‘spiritual sphere’, the ‘earthly sphere’ and the ‘human sphere’. Now I would like to expand upon the human sphere to include what I have come to regard as the ‘trinity of health and healing’ and to introduce two new teachers.

When I embarked upon ABR Therapy (Advanced Bio-Mechanical Rehabilitation), its creator and teacher, Leonid Blyum, enlightened me to a higher understanding of the nature of the human body and taught me that healing a body, damaged due to spinal injury, was a real possibility despite the insistence of the medical profession that recovery is impossible, at least, in their view, until scientists discover how to repair the spinal cord! The improvements I have made, over the last 14 years, have shown that nerve damage is not a barrier to recovery and that by addressing the bio-mechanical essence of the body, it is possible to improve the condition of paraplegia. The condition of ‘paraplegia’ is severe, the physical depletion of the body due to the condition is extensive and the work necessary to heal such a condition is enormous, but after all these years, I continue to make significant and predictable improvements in the structure and function of my body through ABR Therapy. Little by little do we bring my body back to life and slowly but surely do we improve both the quality of my body and so that of the life I am able to lead.

Bio-mechanics is at the heart of paraplegia and is an essential component of all physical conditions and health in general. However, if we wish to see health truly holistically, we must consider two other aspects. Firstly nutrition and secondly our psychological well being. I have always eaten fairly well, or at least compared with many people, and despite the difficulties of my life, I have always soldiered on and remained sane and so neither of these aspects of my health have been a real barrier to my therapy work and recovery from spinal injury. Having said this, in order to gain the maximum benefit from my therapy work, and from life in general, I have long sought to truly understand nutrition, to improve my diet and enjoy food to the full, and to understand and improve the struggles I have with my emotional, or psychological, well being.

For many years I have done my best to live off of pure natural whole foods and a diet that is traditional in essence. I have glanced through the odd recipe book for ideas, but have never owned one and have never wanted to, although I have always managed to cook meals from scratch. I was pretty happy with my diet and vary rarely entertained products of the food commodities industry, but just recently I have had my eyes opened even wider by Sally Fallon, founding member and President of the Weston A. Price Foundation. Weston Price was a dentist in the 1930’s who realised that the health of the Western World was in decline, as witnessed by him in the rise in tooth decay and crooked and crowded teeth. He also realised that when traditional societies, who had never known tooth decay or tooth abnormalities, were co-coerced into the industrialised foods of the West, their teeth rotted and future generations were born with narrow faces and crowded teeth. For the last 100 years there has been a steady decline in the nutritional value of the average diet in the Western world. Sally Fallon extols the virtues of animal foods for their high nutritional content and the importance of animal fats, dispelling the myth that these are bad for us. All research that has ever suggested that animal fats are bad for us and vegetable oils are good has been funded by the very industry that wishes to promote the vegetable oil products of industrial agriculture. She also believes in the importance of ‘raw milk’, it being a whole food full of living enzymes. Pasteurizing milk kills off so much of its beneficial enzymes that it can no longer be considered a whole food and has been blamed for many health conditions, particularly allergies. Raw milk on the other hand, she suggests, not only causes none of these health problems, but taken as a diet on its own has traditionally been used as a cure for many ills. When she talks of ‘lacto-fermentation’ as a way of preserving vegetables and fruit, while at the same time increasing their vitamin and nutritional content, and as a means of making all manner of soft drinks, she made me realise just how lifeless our modern food products are. The huge scale upon which food stuffs are produced, by necessity means that all life must be extinguished in their manufacture otherwise it would be impossible to maintain any standard of quality and shelf life.

As individuals who prepare and cook our own food we can always seek to improve our diet by eating highly nutritious food, but it is not so easy when we wish to integrate with wider society. I like to have my Sunday dinner at the kids home where I work, but have to accept that the potatoes will be roasted in vegetable oil; a polyunsaturated oil that is unstable at high temperature and so, not only unsuitable for roasting, but toxic to the body. I also have to accept that they buy cheap potatoes whose growth will have been forced with artificial fertilisers and whose health will have been subjected to herbicides and pesticides, not to mention the quality of the other vegetables and the meat. As for the puddings; I am never shy of cream, but the adulterated vegetable oil used as a cream substitute is borderline poisoning! I am grateful for the one social meal I have each week and believe that the efforts I make to eat well, in my own small way, more than counteract the odd poor quality meal. It’s just a shame that, collectively as a society, we don’t wake up to the importance of good quality highly nutritious food.

Understanding a healthy diet isn’t too difficult when presented with the facts; understanding our psychological health, however, is not always easy. Over the last few years I have come to understand how experiences at a very young age, even at too young an age to have a conscious memory of the experience, can have a profound and lasting effect throughout our adult life. Traumatic experiences cause the psyche to split as a way of managing and surviving the experience. The emotional experiences of the trauma are split off and buried in the unconscious and the person develops survival strategies to manage and maintain the split. Over time this forms what we call our personality. It is as though we are all traumatised and spend our lives trying to find our way home.

I have always talked of what happened, to leave me a paraplegic, as an accident, but accidents never just happen, they are rooted in our personality and so rooted in those experiences that have shaped our lives, rooted in our trauma. In my personal quest to understand this side of my life I have come across the work of Franz Rupert and find his theory on trauma very enlightening and this has helped me clarify much of what I have worked out for myself over the years. I have not tried his constellation method as a therapeutic means of addressing our own trauma, but the opportunity may present itself soon with up and coming local practitioners.

When you listen to Franz Rupert it is easy to believe that all health problems are the consequence of trauma. When you listen to Sally Fallon then they’re a consequence of poor nutrition and when you listen to Leonid Blyum it’s easy to believe they are all rooted in poor bio-mechanics. When it comes to myself and all the other seriously disabled people pursuing ABR Therapy, then the very real bio-mechanical issues over-ride all others, but that is not to say that it isn’t important to also address our nutritional health and our psychological health. Franz Rupert’s ideas may not be for everyone, but I urge you all to look up Sally Fallon and listen to what she has to say about food and nutrition. I thoroughly recommend her DVD presentation and her book, both titled ‘Nourishing Traditional Diets’.

Finally I would like to thank my personal therapist, whom I employ to help me with my ABR therapy work, for introducing me to the work of both Sally Fallon and Franz Rupert and for helping me to develop further my thoughts on the ‘Trinity of Health and Healing’.

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Mobility Scooters

June 19, 2015

For the past three months I’ve had an extra dog. She’s a Lakeland Terrier and belongs to my good friend and neighbour who, unfortunately, has been in hospital all this time. I have two dogs of my own, a husky and a lurcher, but the terrier’s been a part time member of my pack for the last six years so she fits in well. At times, three dogs is a bit too much. Walking three dogs with a wheelchair is fine all the time you’re on a smooth wide path and the dogs keep to formation, but when there’s curbs to negotiate and the pavements get narrow, three dogs on leads are in danger of being wrapped around the wheels. Getting through the door to the pub is tricky enough with two dogs, but with three you tend to get a bit tangled. Once in the pub there is only limited room for the dogs to lie down and so three’s quite a crowd. At other times, one extra dog makes no difference at all. On home turf she just fits into the routine and when running them with my handcycle it matters little how many dogs you have clipped on the back.

The bonus of looking after this dog is that she comes with a mobility scooter. Not just any mobility scooter either, but a ‘Tramper’, the model favoured by disabled ramblers for its off road capabilities. I’ve never really considered myself a mobility scooter type of person. Firstly they’re expensive, especially ones as good as a Tramper. Secondly, it has always seemed a bit of a cop out when I’m capable of getting around under my own steam and thirdly there’s vanity. Not sure if a mobility scooter fits with my image. My wheelchair’s pretty sporty, handcycling with dogs is pretty cool and if I need motorised transport then I jump on the farm quad bike. Just lately, though, I’ve brushed the vanity aside and am discovering another dimension to dog walking and a new sense of freedom.

Tramper

The timing’s been good. Changes in my body due to the therapy work has meant that I’ve had to ease off with the handcycling. As my body opens up still further, a weakness that has been locked up for years has become exposed and this one is proving more troublesome than most. My bum and the back of my leg used to merge into one homogeneous zone, but now there is a clear division at the bottom of my bum and a clear division at the top of the leg. This is fantastic, except there is a hole in the structure between the two where the true bottom to my pelvis should be. We’re working on it and are already beginning to strengthen and build structure into the bottom of the pelvis, but it will take some time. As soon as we started to work on this area and gained the beginning of strength, I then became truly aware of the weakness whereas before it simply didn’t exist in my body map consciousness. Once I had the faint beginnings of strength, I also became aware of activities that placed strain on this newly exposed weakness, and so to be avoided, one of which is handcycling.

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Handcycling is the most fantastic way of travelling with dogs, especially with a husky working alongside in harness, and is also a fairly good way of exercising as a paraplegic. When you live with a body with enormous intrinsic weakness, weakness that goes to the very core, good exercise, through conscious effort, is hard to achieve. If you’re not careful then muscular exertion, without good foundation, can further imbalance you’re body. Handcycling, without too many hills and with a husky to help, is one of the best forms of fresh air and exercise I’ve found, but unfortunately even that has been a little too much lately. Cycling with your arms in a nice reclined seat employs tension throughout the body which normally feels great, but not when it’s straining such a weakness opened up in the body. I’ll get back into it with renewed vigour once we’ve got my pelvic floor strengthened but for now I’m discovering new possibilities for adventure, with a Tramper.

Mobility scooters are just as good for running dogs as a handcycle. It doesn’t work your husky as hard, but there are advantages. Leads, if attached in the right place, don’t get tangled and allow the dogs to run alongside, when there’s room, and fall into formation behind when the paths get narrow. And narrow paths you can do. With the handcycle I stick to the farm lanes and bridle paths, but with the Tramper I can explore narrow winding paths through the woods. All of a sudden this has opened up Copthorne Common to me that previously I’ve never really entered into. It’s not as exhilarating as the handcycle, but leads to a calmer energy in the dogs, which is especially good for the terrier who needs help to overcome an anxiety issue.

The jury’s still out on whether it’s good for my ‘street cred’, but for now I’ll carry on enjoying the novelty of a top of the range, all terrain, mobility scooter.

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Standing

April 8, 2015

Standing is often considered to be the pinnacle of conquering paraplegia and the first step towards walking. It is true that standing is an expression of our uprightness, which is an essential part of human nature, but I would not suggest that an inability to stand denies us that part of our nature; it merely denies us the ability to express that nature. There is though something very special about standing. Firstly it affords us a perspective on the world that is somehow diminished when you spend your life seated and see your surroundings from a view point 18 inches (450mm) lower than you once did. And secondly, it is a neutral position. Seated can also be a neutral position, but just as you’d long to sit down if you were forced to stand for too long, so do you long to stand when forced to spend a life sitting down.

Standing Blog

When I left hospital, as a wheelchair user, I was given a standing frame which it was suggested I use on a regular basis. The main idea behind this is that by putting weight through your legs you keep the bones strong and that if this is neglected the bone density decreases and the bones become weak and brittle. The more I learn about the human body, the more I question not only the wisdom of this statement, but the wisdom of the so called professionals who perpetuate such dogmatic thoughts. Considering that the skeletal joints are frictionless and therefore incapable of transmitting loads, the skeleton does not bear the weight of the body. When we view the body as a tensegrity structure, then the bones are seen as discontinuous compression elements and so do indeed bear compression loads through the use of the body, but in a manner in which they float within a healthy structure and not by propping one bone on top of another with disregard for the depleted nature of the joints between them.

I have always felt the desire to straighten my body out regularly, but never really liked forcing weight through my legs in a standing frame and soon after starting ABR Therapy, I gave the standing frame back to the hospital. In order to compensate for the many hours spent sitting, I took to lying on my front to stretch my body out. This I have done from when I was first paralysed as it has always seemed the most natural of positions, conducive to that upright nature of the human.

The stronger I have got through my therapy work the more standing has come back into my life. To start with this was nothing more than a circus act, showing off from time to time. By locking my knees in hyper extension, and leaning over slightly to place my weight heavily through one hand on a firm hold, I could stand up to shake someones hand. This was a case of showing off the ability to be upright that I was slowly regaining. Probably not the best of ways to treat my body, but my knees didn’t seem to complain too much and it gave me a boost to realise how I was improving. Over the last year or so this circus act has grown into true standing once again and is a very exciting development. I usually have a little stand at the end of each therapy session, not to strengthen my legs, nor to stretch my body out, but to remind my body of what it is ‘to be in gravity’. I stand up with one hand on a firm surface and with my therapist holding my other hand. My knees no longer lock in hyper extension, but are truely capable of bearing weight. My legs still rotate in at the hips so that they bow in at the knees, but this is improving as the quality of my pelvis, and trunk in general, improves. Over the last few months I have had to raise the level of the hand hold as I seem to get more and more upright.

Standing my well be still in its infancy in its return to my life, but it is worth bearing in mind the enormous structural re-engineering we have had to complete, in my body, in order to make even the beginnings of standing a reality. I have come a long way over the years and this is becoming more and more reflected in my physical abilities. Not only does it feel great to use my body in the simple act of standing, after so long, but it is also wonderful to be able to express my inner nature through the ability to be upright and this has brought a greater sense of wholeness to my life.

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The Comfort of Home

March 17, 2015

I went to the cinema a while ago, the first time for a quite a few years. I very much like going to the cinema, and I do like the girl I got to go with, but by the end of the film my lower back was aching, my knees were aching, my feet were numb and I kept getting pins and needles in my left hand. Had I stayed at home and watched a film then I would have been in comfort.

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There has always been a ‘comfort of home’ in my life and I believe there is for most people. There is nothing like your own chair or your own bed. Much of it may be due to familiarity rather than physical comfort, a sense of well being gained from sticking with what you know, but when you are seriously disabled there are special needs that must be catered for in different ways.

SC-5aI have long since ceased to be a fan of arm chairs and in my twenties, before I even broke my back, I threw mine out and learnt to live a life sitting crossed legged on the floor. The history of the arm chair is interesting, although I have to admit that my knowledge is based on the limited experience of my years and what I have seen in motion pictures and period dramas. The chaise longue seems to go way back into antiquity, but the arm chair is confined to the last few centuries of our civilization and has evolved slowly from the basic concept of a chair, with a wooden seat and upright back, into the ultimate soft furnishing that you can sink into.

 

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The concept of the modern arm chair is not to support your body, but to switch off all muscular activity, leaving your body totally reliant on the quality of your inner capacity, your resistance to compression, for support. This is a concept that works fine for the fit and active whose physical activity during their day is amply sufficient to keep them in good shape and they can well afford to slouch in an arm chair in the evening, but it doesn’t bode well for the more sedentary or disabled. The right to slouch was always the preserve of the working classes who earned it through their hard labour, whereas the aristocracy, who led more sedentary lives, relied on attention to posture to maintain a good stature. These days few people’s working lives keep them fit and the etiquette of the upper classes has long since declined. Combine that with the hours people spend slouched in front of the television or computer and there can be no doubt that health is in trouble.

SC-11aAs a paraplegic I have never found a comfortable arm chair or couch. Some are very firm and upright, but they take more effort to sit in than a dining room chair and so are difficult for me to relax in. Most you sink into and they only serve to compress my core strength (intrinsic capacity), which is still a little weak. My waist collapses and my chest sinks in and my pelvis folds in on itself weakening the flow down into the legs. Even though my feet are on the floor it’s as though my lower legs dangle and my feet will be in danger of swelling.

 

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You won’t find such furniture in my house as I choose to live on the floor. I have futon cushions to sit on, which give a firm base while being soft enough for comfort, and numerous scatter cushions for good support. I can build myself a nice reclined seat in the corner with a bean bag roll under my knees which prevents over arching of the lumbar spine and ensures the knee joints don’t hyper extend. I perform therapy on myself in this room and have no trouble in supporting myself in whatever position is necessary. I climb down into this room from my therapy room and from here crawl into my bedroom. Living on the floor as I do allows me to both relax and work in comfort while moving around making full use of the functional ability I have regained.