An Interesting Discovery During Therapy

by Jen Reeves on January 7, 2014 · 14 comments

in 2014, Therapy

Jordan’s occupational therapist and I discovered something a few weeks ago during a session. We had added yoga poses into her life and when we introduced a simple toe-touching stretch. Jordan complained it was really hard. I figured she was pretending. Toe touching for me is so easy. How can it be difficult for an eight-year-old? It turns out, her hamstrings are super tight. So we set out to try and figure out why. Jordan’s OT consulted with some physical therapists and they recommended our OT look at Jordan’s stride.

That’s what we did. And it turns out, Jordan does not walk with a natural stride. She holds her left arm to her side – even when she’s wearing her helper arm. We explained and showed Jordan what a natural stride looks like – with each arm moving equally. She tried but it turned into a strange boogie.

Now we’re going to zone in on finding ways to get Jordan moving more uniform. One idea is by using broom sticks on each side. Jordan can hold on with her helper arm to grab on with one and her hand with the other. She and I can walk at the same pace with me showing her arms how to move. We’ll give it a try and see if it helps. While we’re out of town, we’ll try to march and do a few fun motions we practiced during her therapy session.

I’d be curious to hear if other parents of limb different kids or limb different adults have dealt with a similar challenge and if you’ve found any solutions. Jordan has to break a pretty long-standing habit in how she walks!

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Alex Madinger January 7, 2014 at 9:03 am

A thought that came to my mind, is to use an exercise “running” machine, where the hand move out too. You could tone it down to a walk, but it will get both her arms moving in a uniform fashion. May be easier and more precise then broomsticks.

Jen Lee Reeves January 7, 2014 at 11:22 am

It might be better, Alex… But we don’t have a treadmill at the house. But we might use this as a reason to visit the kid gym where Jordan has access to a couple of treadmills.

erica January 7, 2014 at 1:21 pm

My son is now 2 and a half. When he began walking he walked like young frankenstein with both arms straight out in front of him to keep balance. As he gets older I am noticing he is doing the same thing. I really don’t have any advice but maybe we could help each other as we find some effective methods in them having a “good stride”

Jen Lee Reeves January 7, 2014 at 2:14 pm

It’s a deal, Erica! I’ll be sure to share anything ideas that work for us!

Susan January 8, 2014 at 7:59 am

Normally, I’m all for a “strange boogie”…

Jen Lee Reeves January 8, 2014 at 9:07 am

Well… Me too, Susan. But not if it’s causing tight hamstrings. ;-)

Raelyn January 8, 2014 at 9:53 am

Jen….
Oh dear. Well, good luck in redirecting Jordan’s walk, Friend!! ;)
–Raelyn

maureen January 8, 2014 at 8:25 pm

Just wanted to tell you Jordan is beautiful and you are a GREAT Mom. I was born 44 years ago missing my right hand. Though it didn’t keep me from much, as you know, it’s not the easiest way to go through life. But as a Mom myself, I wanted to tell you 1 thing to remember on the hard days.
When I look back on my childhood, the tears, struggles, kids that were mean, are a faded memory. What I remember most about growing up is being happy. REALLY happy. Like Jordan looks in her photos. And I remember how much I was loved.
PS- the home movies of when I was little was holding up my right arm, and kicking out my right leg-somehow that all got better with time :)

Jen Lee Reeves January 13, 2014 at 11:46 pm

Thanks SO much, Maureen. I think Jordan is really happy. And we’re having many awesome adventures while we try to keep her strong and healthy!

maria February 7, 2014 at 6:42 pm

I’m a little late seeing this, but I am fascinated to hear this! I have always had very tight hamstrings, (where I actually can’t sit with both legs straight outstretched in front of me) and never could figure out why!! This makes so much sense, I hold my left ( affected limb) close to my side. Thanks for that great insight, I never would have made that connection. Always learning something new here!

Nathan Ramsey February 23, 2014 at 11:24 am

I have very tight hamstrings too. Keep in mind that I am an occupational therapist, not a physical therapist. PTs are much better trained for gait analysis. Since I was also born without a hand, I have gotten pretty good at analyzing compensatory movement patterns, however.

I recommend stretching exercises rather than changing the way she walks. My guess is that the reduced arm swing is a result of not having an elbow and extra limb length to help build momentum. When you walk, pay attention to how your elbow moves slightly, and how the weight of your hand creates a pendulum effect. It saves a lot of work for your shoulders.

A person with an upper extremity limb difference needs to generate more force with their shoulder muscles in order to maintain arm swing. Although the movement may appear to be more symmetrical with greater arm swing, in reality it involves different patterns of asymmetrical movement. That shoulder would have to work very hard over an extended period of time in order to simulate a more “normal” arm swing. I’m worried that over time, the extra force generated at the shoulder would contribute to wear-and-tear of the joint.

Stretching exercises would help prevent more hamstring tightness, without overworking her shoulders.

Nathan Ramsey February 23, 2014 at 11:46 am

Also, pay attention to how Jordan sits, especially when she’s doing work at a desk or table. Is she slouching? I have a tendency to slouch so that I can bring my shortened left arm closer to the work surface. That can contribute to hamstring tightness.

You can try raising the desk or chair she sits on, but there might be unhealthy consequences to other parts of her body. Unfortunately, ergonomic standards haven’t been established for people with limb differences. Before you try modifying the environment to prevent slouching, be sure to consult with her PTs and OTs.

Jen Lee Reeves February 23, 2014 at 10:00 pm

These are awesome tips! Thank you so much, Nathan! As always, your insight is awesome.

Brittney October 22, 2014 at 10:45 am

Thanks for sharing this story. This shows that you really have to pay attention to every detail of your child’s life, even the small ones.

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