I Bought a Pair of Walking Poles
Ha, I did it. I purchased a pair of walking poles. Specifically, these walking poles. I am delighted to have them. So this is what happened.
A buddy of mine and a fellow person who has rheumatoid arthritis purchased a pair of poles. I wondered if having poles might me with ankylosing spondylitis. She started telling me about them and how much she loved the poles and I was impressed. My friend walks more than I do by far, but she also walks (more hikes) in some urban wooded areas. Her walks are over uneven ground and several rocks, and she is an impressive hiker. I admire her adventures, but I do not have the same aspirations. For me, I just wanted to be able to walk on streets and sidewalks, nothing dramatic.
My walking was declining
As autumn turned to winter I was walking less and less. My wife, Sheryl, works to get 10K steps in each day and during the summer I usually ride my bicycle. Walking is difficult for me for a variety of reasons. First I have neuropathy as a result of long-term diabetes. The neuropathy makes it difficult to feel my feet or at least most of my feet.
It is not surprising that I am having difficulty. People with diabetes have a high likelihood of significant neuropathy and that neuropathy leads to all manner of balance issues. In a landmark paper Brown, et al.1 stated:
“For the ﬁrst time, we have shown that balance is markedly impaired in patients with DPN during the gait activities of level ground walking, stair ascent, and stair descent.”
DPN is Diabetes Peripheral Neuropathy. Thankfully for poor spellers everywhere, it is known as DPN. But not fortunately I have a tough case of it...Grrrrr.
Of course that is not enough of an issue. It turns out that in 2017 Gündüz, et al.2 reported:
“In our study, AS patients could not maintain their static balance as well as the healthy subjects could while standing on firm base when eyes closed...Furthermore, we observed that AS patients had worse dynamic balance while walking when compared to healthy subjects. AS patients widened steps and walked slowly to compensate their poor dynamic balance.”
Regardless of the reason, it seems that I might be stuck with having difficulty. In fact, I have to admit that I am prone to walking like a Weeble People. I am terribly roly-poly, wobbling as much side to side as moving (some might say falling) forward. This broke Sheryl’s stride, slowed her down, and frustrated me. I needed something that allowed me to stabilize my body and be able to walk with Sheryl.
Contemplating what to do, I thought about the walking poles. My friend was reporting great success using them, so I thought, I have little to lose and maybe a lot to gain. So I ordered a pair.
I got my new poles and hit the pavement (sort of)
I have been walking with them four times as I write this, and I can report I am still learning. I purchased a pair that gives both support and stability. What I love about them is how much more quickly I can move as I use them. I can absolutely keep up with Sheryl. I noticed on each walk, I felt my body swaying side to side at least 5 times and with the poles I was able to quickly balance my weight and keep going without stumbling. That was a big win for me.
However, things are never perfect. I am definitely in learning mode. Using these poles requires a technique that I have not yet mastered. The idea is to extend the foot and opposite arm then repeat for the next arm. I keep wanting to work them on the same side (yes bad technique). This is cross-body support. The video that came with them demonstrates the technique and several people in my walking pole group (yes it is a thing) have said it might take 30 walks to feel comfortable.
Finally, I am like a tank moving along the sidewalk. I am big and wide and going forward. Wide and tanks mean I am not always able to walk alongside Sheryl and holding hands or arms is not going to work. Hey, one of the reasons I like walking with Sheryl is that she will often grasp my arm to steady me. Hmm, I may have to forget my walking poles some days when we go for a walk. I mean slowing down and holding on to a beautiful woman, well a few stumbles might be OK? 😊
Do you use the word disability to describe your AS?