I sat on the examination table in my paper gown, my legs hanging off the side, wondering if I should hop down to get a book to read, when the door opened. The older, white-haired, orthopedic specialist who looked to be over 70, entered with a young resident-in-training glued to his side. From the moment they entered the room, the elder doctor was drawn to my knees like moths to a flame. Absent were the courtesy greetings, “how are you, today?” “What brings you in, today?” Instead, the doctor’s eyes locked on to my knees. He pulled over the rolling stool and began closely examining them through his bifocals, occasionally pointing out various protrusions to the resident. He still hadn’t spoken to me so I just sat there quietly, rather amused at his interest in my knees since I was there for a hip exam. Finally, with his head still at knee level, he peered up over his bifocals, and spoke to me for the first time, slowly and deliberately, “YOU were a VERY active little girl, weren’t you?”
Yes, I was a very active little girl, 30-40 years ago. Each of those scars represents a memory, “This is where I fell onto the concrete patio while practicing volleyball.” “This is were I fell attempting that dance move.” “This is where the dog yanked me off the concrete porch steps when he spotted a squirrel.” As a kid, I played all kinds of sports despite being clumsy and having terrible balance. My parents purchased knee pads for me which I guess gave me license to fall on my knees as often as I wanted because I wore holes in them. Yet, you don’t have to be particularly active to trip over your own feet, which I’ve been known to do walking on perfectly level ground. I learned early to buy only closed-toe sandals and shoes if I wanted to keep my toenails. I am also easily distracted. Most people know not to text and drive. I should also not text and walk. Recently, I was answering a text message only to step ankle deep into a square of freshly poured concrete.
Perhaps my center of gravity is a little higher than it should be with extra long legs and a minuscule torso? Whatever the reason, I topple easily and fall hard. Wooden stairwells are particularly dangerous. Multiple times, I’ve taken a tumble while wearing my favorite fluffy socks. The housekeeper wasn’t quite sure what to think when she found me just lying on the stairwell with my head on the first step and the rest of my body trailing up the stairs. I was just relaxing, taking mental inventory of my injuries before attempting to straighten myself.
So, naturally, when the hip surgeon reviewing my X-rays asked if I’d ever had any trauma to my hip, I replied, “No. Not that I know of.”
Now that I have a brand new hip, I’ve determined it’s time to take ownership of my clumsiness and start applying more preventative measures, taking better care of my joints. The use of a walker during this first week following hip surgery really demonstrated to me how much more steady I was with the extra support. I might look 30 years older using the walker but I didn’t stumble because there were were four more points of stability to protect me. However, a full-time walker is not very practical for my lifestyle. I’ve seen people around town using hiking sticks so I thought that might be an option I could live with. Who knew there were so many options to hiking sticks?! There are different grips, adjustment mechanisms, materials, baskets, and tips made for a wide variety of activities!
To quote Ryan Bradley in his Wirecutter review of the best trekking poles, “Poles improve balance and cut down significantly on wear and tear in your legs (especially in your knees), particularly when you’re going downhill. But poles also make walking—one of the best, and certainly easiest, workouts you can do—even healthier. Poles stave off injuries and lessen impact, sure, but they also get your whole upper body involved.”
How have I not known about these? This is a very convincing article so I encourage anyone on the fence about purchasing poles to read it. Poles aren’t tools for only the frail or elderly but for every person that walks. If I had started using poles decades ago, I might not be needing all the surgical procedures I’m lined up for today. Why haven’t we made these things fashion statements and fitness must-haves? They come in adorable colors. Every day, active people pass me by carrying these fancy yoga mat bags. I see no reason why poles should not be equally as popular. I cannot wait to receive my very first pair!