Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Use It or Lose It

I had the strangest dream the other night, and it's one I've had before.  I was dancing (I often dance in my sleep) and I did the splits.  It was a vivid dream; I remember feeling the cool floor under my thighs and the stretch in my groin and hamstrings.  It's amazing how muscle or body memory persists - I haven't done the splits since the early 1990s.  Sadly, having a body memory doesn't mean I can still do it.  I don't know why I stopped practising the splits, but I know now it would be very difficult to work towards doing them again. And there are all sorts of other things I can no longer do. I wish I had taken the advice to 'use it or lose it' more seriously.

This loss of flexibility is seen as a natural part of ageing and it might well be, but it probably has more to do with everyday habits; use, abuse, misuse and lack of use.  It's not just use, but proper use which makes the difference.

I've had a problem with the big toe on my right foot since my late 20s, when it started stiffening up and the joint started to grow.  I came down with rather a 'snap' onto that toe in a gym session when I was 17 and although it was bruised and sore, it was just before half term, so it got a few days rest.  Now it doesn't bend enough for me to wear more than a lowish heel, and extended dancing makes my foot ache as I know I compensate for the lack of flexibility by allowing the ankle to sickle (curve outwards). I've had stiff knees for ages; they seemed to get really bad when I was driving for a few hours to commute here from Berkshire at the weekends. The X rays prompted by my sore right knee show that I have severe osteoarthritis in the knee and the toe joint.  On the other hand, it's not stopping me dancing as it seems better once I'm warmed up and dancing than lying in bed at night, even though I can't bend it very well.

While I try to lose weight and pop painkillers while waiting for my consultant's appointment, (which could be 3 or 4 months away), obviously I need to use and maintain or hopefully improve on any flexibility and strength I have. I haven't been offered physiotherapy - perhaps they think as a dance teacher I can provide for myself, although I'm not a trained physio!  So I've decided that I shall carry on with some careful exercises and record them here. Watch out, the first one (or more) will arrive soon!

Please feel free to join me, but be careful and gentle with yourself!  Your body is your responsibility!

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