walk this way...

Today marks the beginning of my 7th week of recovery! I just went back and read some of my posts from just a few weeks ago, and I am amazed at how far I've come in such a short amount of time. This last week is probably the best week I've had so far. Since switching down from oxycodone to hydrocodone, I have felt less sick and miserable than any week before. I still have significant pain, but the pain comes and goes a lot more now, and there are larger chunks of time where I have almost no pain at all (that is, while on hydrocodone). Sleeping is still hard, and I think this is mostly due to the way my muscles become stiff after laying in one position for hours at a time.

I am walking more and more as the days go forward, and I can really see the benefits that come from this simple form of exercise. I am not doing any other physical therapy yet. Most people who have this surgery begin physical therapy at 3 or 6 months post-op. So until my surgeon gives me the green light to do anything more, I am focused on increasing my walking speed and distance each week.

Walking is an amazing form of exercise, and it is an essential part of the healing process for post-op scoliosis patients. Immediately following surgery, usually the next day, you are up walking down the hallways in the hospital. And everyday after, you are encouraged to walk further and faster. Here are just a few of the things it does for a post-op patient:

  • Walking promotes the flow of oxygen throughout your body, and helps maintain a normal breathing pattern
  • It strengthens muscles all over your body
  • It helps improve gastrointestinal and urinary tract function (which is vital while taking so many drugs that cause constipation--and is why I suffered so much when I couldn't walk when I had my spinal headache)
  • Walking improves blood flow, and speeds wound healing
And it follows that if you do not walk much post-op, you are going to have increased constipation, gas pain, weakness, and less power to fight infections. Without walking you are also at a much higher risk to have a blood clot, which can be deadly.

Walking is not just for post-op patients! Study after study has shown how walking briskly for 20-30 minutes a day can lower cholesterol, lower your blood pressure, lessen anxiety, reduce risk of diabetes, manage your weight, and help you stay strong and fit. Some studies are also discovering how it may help prevent certain types of cancer! It is a "low-impact" form of exercise, which means it is gentle on your joints (unlike running or jogging) and it does no damage while strengthening your body. 

There are some amazing studies on how walking helps people who are struggling with depression and anxiety. I know personally, I feel much better after walking, not just physically, but emotionally. A huge part of my recovery is keeping a positive attitude. I have a long road ahead of me, and it can become discouraging when I think about how much I'm missing out on, how I am unable to drive a car yet, or even go to the grocery store. Not getting a lot of deep sleep and being perpetually uncomfortable or in pain can be very depressing. And taking heavy pain killers can also lead to depression as well. Walking, which encourages the production of endorphins, is a natural mood booster which fights all those depression causing side effects! An interesting side note: studies have also found that people with pets, and in particular dogs, heal faster after surgery, and are less likely to be depressed. (Some other benefits of being a pet owner are: having fewer allergies, being less likely to have heart attacks, and less Alzheimer's symptoms.) Dogs, like walking, help boost the production of endorphins naturally just by being cute and fuzzy and giving you attention. And it follows since dogs love to take walks, dog owners will be walking more, which helps fight depression. I'd say that's a win-win situation!

I have really enjoyed getting out of the house this last week and taking short walks around the neighborhood. I am also very blessed to have sweet friends who take time to come and walk with me. Talk about a mood booster! I always feel encouraged after a visit from a friend, and right now the combination of walking and fellowship is very therapeutic! Here is a photo from this past Saturday. I am walking with a dear friend's daughter and she is "helping" me walk Charlie.
I do not take for granted the ability to walk, or the benefits that come with it. Once you've almost lost something, or lost something temporarily, you see it with new eyes. Next time you take a walk, even if it's to your car, think about how many people walk with pain, or with a walker, or who are unable to walk at all. It might give you an appreciation of how important that simple action really is.

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