For those with difficulty walking due to tired or weak legs

Discussion in 'Fibromyalgia Main Forum' started by Jackie41, Jul 4, 2003.

  1. Jackie41

    Jackie41 Member

    I've only had FM for about a year and a half and have only been on this board for three months or so, but I was very surprised to find out how many of you, like me, find it difficult to walk due to tired legs. I had a thourough neuro workup which found nothing and the doctor told me that this was often a part of fibro and that it was OK to use a walking aid if it helped. Here is the best solution for me. I don't claim that this is for everyone, but some may want to give it a try. About a year ago, my legs started to tire easily and feel weak and rubbery, so I started to use a cane for support, but I didn't feel real secure with it. After a few weeks I tried two canes which was only a little better. I found they made my arms hurt because they are not stable and if you try to lean on them at all, your arm muscles have to work very hard to keep the canes steady. I tried a walker and hated it. I felt very secure with it but it was so clumsy and almost impossible to use on steps. Besides, I'm only twenty-nine and twenty-nine year old gals just don't use walkers. I was on the walker for about two weeks and used it to go to our local support group meeting. That night another woman, about my age, who was having trouble walking and had been using a cane came in for the first time on two forearm crutches. These were not the underarm kind, but the aluminum canes with the cuffs that go around your forearms. I thought she had hurt herself but she said that her legs fatigued easily and she was tired of struggling with a cane. I asked if I could try them. She showed me the right way to use them and I took a couple of laps around the meeting room to get used to them. Naturally, I very generously allowed her to use my walker while I was flitting about on her crutches. It took me about three minutes to decide that I had to have a pair. I went out in the hall and tried the stairs. It was a little tough but I got up and down two flights on the first try.They were so much less clumsy than the walker, and compared to the canes, they were so much more stable that they made walking seem almost effortless by comparison. While all this was going on, quite a few of our cane users were watching with great interest and most of them had to try the crutches too. The next day I bought a pair and donated the canes and walker to Goodwill. I've been on the crutches now for nine months, part of the time around the house and nearly all the time outside the house. Over the next couple of months, four more ladies in our group switched from a cane or walker to crutches, and a few more use them on ocasion. I guess we started a fad. As I said before, this is probably not for everyone, but so many have tired or weak legs that a few might want to consider using crutches at least part time.

    I've noticed from people I've talked to and people on this board that there are three main objections:

    1. I can't use crutches because they'll hurt my arms. This might be true for some, but I think the problem is incorrect use of crutches. If you break a leg, you put both crutches in front of you and swing your legs through. This puts all your weight on your arms and will definitely cause pain. The trick is to use the 2-point or 4-point crutch gait. This is where your legs take steps normally (left, right, left, right, etc.) and the opposite crutch goes forward, i.e. left crutch and right leg forward, then right crutch and left leg, etc. This is the normal way people walk: the right arm swings forward as the left leg is taking a step and vice versa. This way, each crutch supports the opposite leg and you can put as much or as little weight on the crutches as needed. Your arms don't do any work trying to steady the crutches because the forearm cuffs make them stable to begin with. I don't recommend the underarm crutches for long term use since they cause bruising on the side of the chest and are much harder to use on stairs.

    2) I am too embarrassed or self conscious to use them. So was I the first time I went to the office or out with friends and used crutches. But more than 90% of them are very supportive and after the first time or two, don't treat me any differently. Several have commented on how much better I get around. It's really not a problem.

    3) I'm afraid I'll become dependent on them. This was a big thing for me. I used to be fairly athletic and was playing tennis and jogging as recently as two years ago. I was afraid that if I started using them I wouldn't be able to stop. Plus, I have nice legs and was afraid they would get shriveled up or flabby from using crutches. This didn't happen because the crutches actually allow me to walk much farther than I otherwise would and so my legs get more exercise than if I just stayed home because walking was too difficult. As for the question of dependence, I have to say that yes, I am dependent on crutches whether I like it or not. I have a disease that has taken away my ability to walk normally. I can't go to a shopping mall without some sort of help with walking. Once I realized this, the problem of worrying about dependence went away, and I stopped trying to limit how many days I was allowed to use them. After nine months on crutches, my legs have not gotten any weaker because of it. Like everyone else with fibro I have good days and bad.
    On a bad day, I literally can't walk without crutches, because my legs are not strong enough to support me. On good days, I can walk much farther. Are there days whn I use crutches and I don't absolutely have to? Yes. Some days my legs are only a little bit weak as long as I don't try to walk too far. On most of these days, I still use crutches even if I can walk without them, because maybe a co-worker might want to walk three or four blocks for lunch or I might want to take a long walk for the exercise.
    The point is that I've stopped grading myself on whether I use the crutches too much. I just doesn't bother me any more. If I have them, I never have to say "sorry, I can't go with you. I'm afraid my legs will give out." So, yes, I have become dependent on crutches, but the alternative is for me to just sit around the house and not go anywhere and then I would be dependent on staying home. So when in doubt, I use the crutches and don't worry about whether I'm using them more than I need to. Better safe than sorry. And if someone finds a miracle cure for fibro someday, I'm not the least bit worried that I won't be able to throw away the crutches because I've become too dependent on them. In the meantime, they've made a tremendous improvement in the quality of my life.

    Again, I don't claim to be an expert and what's good for me may not be good for everyone, but there are so many out there with difficulty walking, that a few might benefit from me sharing my story. I would appreciate any feed back, especially from any crutch-users out there.

    Jackie

  2. donna13210

    donna13210 Member

    Appreciate the info.

    The older I get and the more out-of-shape I get, the less my legs can handle. My legs now get weak & rubbery after climbing only ONE set of steps. It's embarassing for me, even if I'm alone (if you know what I mean). If I try to go straight from the basement to the first floor to the second floor, I can't even walk when I get there! My legs will barely hold me up.

    I hate this DD. Every year it just gets worse and worse.

    Hang in there. Hope the crutches continue to help you.

  3. NutsInAlabama

    NutsInAlabama New Member

    lately and I am so insecure about how it will be received.
    Everyone I know, knows that I broke my back almost 2 years ago and I seem to have passed that with a surgery and my range is great but the combo of that and this DD makes me feel so hypocondrical "others opinions" that another constant complaint would be second guessed. It is always something else
    I know I need to start using something for support, More than 50 feet at times just makes me want to sit where ever I happen to be. I do you the motorized chairs at the stores that offer them when I shop I just can't get past the stigma of
    "She looks fine now" not that anyone has said it
    I think this is all in my head

    How do I get past the paranoid feeling that wells up

    appreciate any help

    Deb
  4. GooGooGirl

    GooGooGirl New Member

    I can't walk up or down stairs without getting that rubbery feeling in my legs. I can't walk any long distance without getting completely exhausted and having to stop. I just don't understand this, though, if Fibro is not progressive, then why am I getting worse??
  5. Jackie41

    Jackie41 Member

    A couple of suggestions:

    Talk to some of your friends ahead of time. Tell them you're thinking of using crutches part of the time because your legs get too weak to walk for long distances. See how they recieve it. Tell them your doctor or physical therapist suggested it or something like that. Announce when you are going to try them so you won't have to deal with them being surprised. Tell them you're just trying them out to see if they help.

    When you get the crutches, go on a short trip where nobody knows you and try them out. A mall is a good place. Be sure you learn the 2-point and 4-point gait or your arms will get too sore. You can find these in a physical therapy book or go to walkeasy.com and click on interactive and crutch gait to see a cute little animation illustrating these gaits.

    The transition was nowhere as difficult as I thought it would be, and the ability to go places and get exercise by walking more makes a big improvement in quality of life.

    Be sure to let me know how things go. I'll look for your reply either here or on the chit chat forum if you prefer to go there. I'll be happy to answer any questions I can. Hope this helps.

    Hugs

    Jackie
    [This Message was Edited on 07/05/2003]
  6. zggygirl

    zggygirl New Member

    Hi,
    I just read your very informative post, thanks!
    I was wondering, would this help foot pain? I mean do you end up putting less weight on your feet?
    If so they would REALLY help me cause I am extremely limited in my activities due to foot pain. Any weight on my feet hurts too much to continue doing things. Standing can be torture. Okay you get the idea *S*
    I also noticed you said you can get more exercise because of them! That would be, well heaven. I was also very active until just a couple years ago. Now I am getting worse because I can't get my walking exercise. But even though my legs tire it is really my feet that are causing the biggest problem.
    Waiting anxiously for your reply,
    Thank you,
    ziggy
  7. Jackie41

    Jackie41 Member

    I can't promise that crutches will help you but they certainly won't hurt. Yes you do put less weight on your feet if you do the gait right (see my reply to NutsinAlabama). They will certainly help the tired legs and that might help the foot pain by making your gait better. I sometimes get foot pain, especially if I wear heels, and the crutches seem to help me, but each of us is different. Please let me know how it works if you try it.

    Hugs

    Jackie
  8. Jackie41

    Jackie41 Member

    The progression might be due to the fact that since you can't walk very far without assistance, therefore you don't walk very far and the lack of exercise and mobility may be causing your legs to deteriorate. This sounds like my experience before I started using the crutches. Again, I'm no expert and this is an amateur opinion at best. Other fibro people have asked me whether crutches would help them and I can only say try it and find out.

    Hugs

    Jackie.
  9. lassiecass

    lassiecass New Member

    Hi Jackie,
    Thanks for the great tip. My legs have been very unstable this summer. I exercise 3 times a week if possible at Curves. My legs are hurting more when I walk alot with my Mom or on my vacation. I use a cane sometimes but it doesn't always feel like enough support since both legs are acting up. I think the heat really makes my condition worse, Fibro. I am going to try the metal cuff crutches and see how I do. I appreciate your input, wish me luck.
    Soft Hugs,
    Sandy (Cass)
  10. Achy-shaky

    Achy-shaky New Member

    What a great idea!! I am going to give them a try - I use a cane and now have tendonitis in wrist from it. I want to so badly walk more...it used to be my favorite exercise but now it's so painful and I get that rubbery feeling so bad I feel like my knees are caving in.

    Thanks for the suggestion!
    Blessings to you sharing.
    Shaky

    PS: I just checked the walkeasy website - what model do you use? the open or closed cuff? I'm going to ask doctor for a prescription so I don't have to pay full amount.[This Message was Edited on 07/05/2003]
  11. NutsInAlabama

    NutsInAlabama New Member

    Thanks so much for the response I so much appreciate the advice and understanding

    I AM gonna try them I am waiting as well to see what model you have and I am sure my doc will not have a problem prescibing them and medicare will cover a small blessing

    :)

    hugs
    Deb
  12. Jackie41

    Jackie41 Member

    I don't know what my cuffs are called. The cuff is not a complete circle but the opening is narrow enough that they will stay on your arms without falling off. There is another kind where the cuffs are only a half circle. These are sometimes called elbow crutches. I like the kind I have because you can let go of them and they won't fall. When you go grocery shopping, you can just hang onto the cart and they stay on your arms. When you leave the cart to get something, you just grab the handles. Pretty neat, huh?
    Both of you please stay in touch with me either via this board or the chit chat board. Please let me now if the crutches help. Use them when you feel you need them and don't worry about what anyone else thinks and for goodness sake, don't dwell on whether you are using them too much or not enough. They are a walking AID!! They're there to help. Don't make a big deal out of it. Life's tough enough without worrying about unimportant things.

    By the way, did you you understand the 2-point and 4-point gait cartoons on the walkeasy site? I can't stress this enough. If you do not use these gaits, your experience with crutches will be unpleasant. It's not like when you sprained your ankle or broke your leg. You're not tryng to put all your weight on the crutches, just some of it. The 4-point gait is for when your legs are really tired or unsteady. It's more secure but slower. I use it about one third of the time. Mostly I use the 2-point. This is for when my legs are stronger.It's much faster but requires more muscle strength. It's not hard to tell which one to use. Yesterday I completely overdid it walking around downtown for the July 4 celebration. Must have walked 2-3 miles which is a lot for me. Today, I can only manage the 4-point gait and it will be a few days before I can go back to the 2-point, but it's my own stupid fault, for thinking I could do more than I can.
    Again, you have my best wishes and I can't wiat to hear how it goes. Please stay in touch.

    Hugs

    Jackie
  13. Jackie41

    Jackie41 Member

    I can't give you a model name. They're just the garden variety forearm crutches and are available in most of the stores that sell wheel chairs and the like. See my reply to Lassiecass and Achy-Shaky for more info.

    Please stay in touch. I must hear all about it. Can't wait.

    Hugs

    Jackie
  14. Mar19

    Mar19 New Member

    I was so glad to see your post. I've thought of getting these crutches, it just looks like it would be so much easier than my cane or walker or wheel chair. I kinda held back because I thought it was "over the edge", for want of a better term. You know how it is, you look "healthy" so everyone thinks you're a bit of a hypochondriac. It was so good to hear positive feedback on the crutches. I especially like the idea of them staying attached to your forearm. So many times when I use my cane or walker the problem of exactly where to put it when you stop to look at something is an issue. I'm going to have to check into getting them for myself. If you don't mind my asking; how much did you pay for yours? Or did you insurance company foot the bill?
    Love and blessings
    Mar
  15. BabsFl

    BabsFl New Member

    Jackie,
    Thank you very much for this post.
    I have a cane and a wheelchair. I have the same problems with my legs. I also have arthritis very bad in my hips, the left one is the worst. Because I am only 34 I am very stubborn about using anything in public, always afraid of what people will think. Always afraid of becoming dependent and not to mention looking at things at the store and being in peoples "way". Last but not least I feel like if I do I am giving in to this dd.
    Because of my hard headedness, just like the doc's told me, I have made myself worse and have caused flares in my hips! After reading your post I have decided that I am going to take care of myself. I don't care what anyone thinks they are not the one that suffers the pain in order to not be an inconvence to them. I am so afraid of this dumb wheelchair being a permanet home. Your post has encouraged me and I appreciate it. Sorry if I sound like I am whining but had to share.

    Thanks again,
    Barb
  16. Jackie41

    Jackie41 Member

    I paid about 90 to 95 dollars for the pair, but they come in a variety of prices. If you put "crutches" into a search engine, you'll find about a million places that sell them. You can get them for under $50, but the better ones are lighter and quieter. They have the rings that can be tightened down so they don't make that clicking sound. You should look for something in the 80-120 range. I bought them myself and didn't go throuh the insurance. I guess it depends on your policy abd your doctor.

    As for being "over the edge", they're certainly no more so than a walker or wheel chair, and much handier.

    As I've asked everyone else, please keep in touch and let me know how it goes, especially the reaction of others. I think you'll be surprised how understanding the vast majority of people are.

    Hugs

    Jackie

  17. Jackie41

    Jackie41 Member

    Using crutches or any other walking aid is not giving in to the dd. Staying home is giving in. Using crutches to keep up your mobility is fighting the dd, and nobody says you have to use them all the time. If I used a wheel chair when I can use crutches, that might be giving in because my legs would get no exercise and would just get weaker. But you have to do whatever you can manage.
    Thanks for the reply and don't get discouraged.

    Hugs

    Jackie

    P.S. I felt embarassed and completely silly the first time I went out of my house on crutches. It doesn't take long to get over this.
  18. lassiecass

    lassiecass New Member

    Hi Jackie,
    I will be happy to stay in touch and let you know how I am doing with the metal arm crutches. I haven't really looked into buying them yet cause I have had my granddaughter over the weekend. She is so much fun. Hope you had a good 4th.
    Soft Hugs,
    Sandy (Cass)
  19. lassiecass

    lassiecass New Member

    Hi Jackie,
    I will be happy to stay in touch and let you know how I am doing with the metal arm crutches. I haven't really looked into buying them yet cause I have had my granddaughter over the weekend. She is so much fun. Hope you had a good 4th.
    Soft Hugs,
    Sandy (Cass)