Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Importance of Stretching

My son has received Physical Therapy at least once a week for 17 years (he was exited last January).  Every PT appointment involved stretching during part of the session.  Every PT he has ever worked with has emphasized the importance of stretching at home.  Every Orthopedic Surgeon he has ever seen has emphasized the importance of stretching. Stretching is important to my son's overall well-being.

S has a great deal of tone in his body because of his CP.  Stretching benefits S in so many different ways.  His PT that he worked with here (Virginia) for 8 years would end every session by walking S to the door and, after telling him to be good for his parents, would stress, "Stretching, stretching, and more stretching!"

When S was younger, we would stretch him daily.  As he became older, the above mentioned PT told him he needed to start stretching himself since his parents weren't going to be with him at college.  They would spend sessions discussing stretches and exercises that S could do on his own.  The PT would go through the stretches with him so S would understand how to do it.  

The Reality
Overall, S is horrible about stretching himself.  He says he is going to do it.  He knows it needs to be done, but he doesn't do it.  He might say he is doing it; however, sitting on the floor with one leg bent and the other one straight out for 15 minutes isn't stretching (he never moves from his position). He has a stretching strap; it's just a matter of whether or not he knows where he put it.

[Side Note:  He did do a good job of stretching himself when he was in Minnesota this fall.  He knew he had to go see the Orthopedic Surgeon, and he was afraid that the doctor would tell him he was going to need surgery again.  He had muscle release done on both legs 9 years ago - Achilles, hamstrings, and adductors.  It was a beneficial surgery; he remembers the recovery.]

The Impact
S has done little to no stretching the past 2-3 weeks, and it is impacting his ability to function.  

*We live in a 2 story house that has 14 stairs to the upstairs.  He has always been able to walk up the stairs which is great because he knows he has the mobility to visit houses that have stairs.  Since he hasn't been stretching, he struggles to get up the stairs.  There are some nights he has to "crawl" up the last few steps.  When asked why he is doing that, he will tell us it is because he isn't stretching.

*It impacts his walking and his posture.  He has the ability to walk with a single crutch.  When he isn’t stretching, it is more difficult to walk with a single crutch.

*When S doesn't stretch, it impacts his speech.  It has become more difficult for him to be fluid in his speaking.  His speech has become very choppy and breathy during the past few weeks. Again, he knows it is because he isn't stretching.

*His lack of stretching is apparent when he rides horse.  It is more difficult to get him on the horse.  The staff there will ask him if he's been stretching.

*It makes it more difficult for him to do things for himself.  

What do we do?
It is frustrating to watch him do this to himself, but he is 18.  He knows what needs to be done. We have been preaching this to him since forever! He knows what is happening to his body. He can tell us what is happening.  He can tell us that he needs to stretch.  He has to make it happen.

We (my husband, me, and J) "encourage" him to stretch daily.  One of his favorite excuses is that he doesn't have time.  Really?  If you have time to watch TV, videos, and just sit around and listen to music, then you have time to stretch.  We tell him to stretch while he is doing the things just mentioned, and he doesn't.

Here is a conversation that took place yesterday:
M:  You look like you are in pain.
S:  I’m not in pain.
M:  Can you stand up straight?
[S adjusts himself.]
M:  When was the last time you stretched?
S:  I know I should probably do it today.
M:  I didn’t ask you what you should probably do.  I asked you when was the last time you stretched [and he was unable to answer].

You see what we are up against.  You will find this concerned mom sitting on the couch with chocolate.

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