Sunday, July 14, 2013

My Hip Flexion Assist Device (HFAD)

The one thing people with MS always learn, sometimes the hard way is that no one device ever works. I don't think one will ever walk the way they did before the MS. As I learned to live with the changes MS created in my life, I tried different things along the way. The other thing I learned besides becoming attuned to exactly what is going on neurologically with my body, was what device will target the issues.

I own an Ankle Foot Orthosis (AFO), the first thing introduced back in early 2004. That happened because I started tripping sometimes on nothing visible. My toes started dropping down and my ankle ended up paralyzed. A perfectly fine ankle just waiting for orders from the brain to move. Very MS. The signals were not reaching their destination. This went on for many years and I went from a custom made hard plastic AFO which went all the way up to behind the knee (the one on the right), unfriendly AFO; to a shelf bought gentler plastic, smaller, lighter, up to the calf AFO (one on the left).

Swedish AFO

Rigid AFO

Then came the Walkaide, bought two years ago with help from the MS Society, charities and my best friend. This is a high tech, neuro stimulation device that does two important things, provides much needed circulation to the ankle and raises my toes, none of which happen naturally because of the paralysis. This device fits under the knee, has electrodes and sends gentle stimuli through the autonomic nervous system, since my central nervous system seems to be kaput. It took days of programing with an orthotist to fit my gait so it would work with my steps. If I walk on a straight, flat surface, it works fine. If I walk on uneven surfaces, my ankle can and has twisted. It does nothing but move the ankle and help with circulation.

My WalkAide

So, I can use WalkAide with the light AFO which is light enough to move when the toes are stimulated. I do this on uneven surfaces usually.

Now what about the rest of my leg? Great that we have circulation and moving toes but my hip does not flex and my knee does not flex. So, I have a stiff straight leg because of abnormal muscle tone. How am I supposed to walk?

My Hip Flexion Assist Device (HFAD)
Then I discovered this new thing called the Hip Flexion Assist Device (HFAD) -- by total accident. Actually the key search words were "hip flexion". I knew my leg could do a little better than it was. Well, two things: it is quite a contraption and it really works out the whole leg. There are things I like about it and things I don't. They show you a nice picture of a lady wearing it under her clothes. To do this one has to wear a tent! I tried and was so uncomfortable.

What this device does for me is provide a leg lift which I cannot get any other way. It also has a little strap behind my knee, a popliteal strap that actually helps flex the knee. I have decided to wear it over clothes, with the small AFO and use the HFAD as a workout tool. I've had it for two days now and I have one sore left leg. But I did notice today that the circulation was even better than using only the WalkAide. Of course it would be better since the entire leg is working and the knee and hip are flexing. I would never wear it to go out because not only is it exhausting to put on since it is so new, but I feel like Spiderwoman!! -- if you consider my leg hasn't moved correctly for years, no wonder the unused muscles hurt.

So, a workout tool it is and one hell of a one at that!

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