It’s called, “Use it or lose it.”
Last fall* I pulled a muscle in my right leg. Kept up my daily walks, pulled it again – or maybe pulled another muscle. This aggravated the occasional pain I would have in my right knee, and added some hip and thigh pain too.
By November I was noticeably limping much of the time. I couldn’t walk without pain. I couldn’t drive without pain. I would climb stairs using my left leg only. I stopped sitting on the floor because I wasn’t sure I could get back up. I stopped taking baths because I wasn’t sure I could get out of the tub.
I was afraid to go to the doctor, because I didn’t want to hear that I should just get weight loss surgery. Or a knee replacement. I considered just buying a mobility scooter and moving to a 1-story dwelling.
This was very scary.
In December I pulled myself together to go to the doctor, or, rather, my ARNP. She ordered knee x-rays to confirm some arthritis in both knees. She also prescribed physical therapy, which I found to be a fantastic and empowering experience. The physical therapist determined that my right quadriceps & hamstring muscles were significantly weaker than the left ones. There was also some loss of range of motion, but mostly I was lacking strength.
So I started doing targeted strength exercises. Single-leg raises, seated leg extensions, side leg lifts, bridges, steps, “chair squats”, and more. All with 10-15 reps per set, 1-2 sets a day, on each leg. Over an hour’s worth of homework, all told.
I also was urged to begin going for walks regularly again. Over time we increased the difficulty – using deeper steps (I’d started with a 2″ deep phone book) and exercise bands to increase resistance.
I am still doing those exercises, though not every day. Most of them I do now with a 10lb ankle weight a couple times a week. I also take baths, get on the floor, and go upstairs more often… because if I do it today, I can probably do it tomorrow. :)
*For the curious, this was the fall after I got my asthma and vitamin b12 deficiency under control and had loads of energy that I had to do something with. So I began going for walks and started riding the bus, which also involved walking. I began slowly, working up gradually, did all the things I’d been told would prevent injury…and got injured anyway. Sigh.