Sunday, 25 February 2007

Dealing with those heavy legs

One symptom common to most sufferers of chronic fatigue syndrome / ME is the "heavy legs".
I know that other suffers refer to these by other names such as "lead-legs" or "velo-gubbed legs".

From my experience this is not always the same feeling, but a spectrum of feelings. At one end the problem is "chronic" with me not being able to move my legs at all, feeling as though they are lumps of metal, at the other end it is a mild heaviness that means I cannot walk as fast or as far as normal. When I was first diagnosed with ME I often experienced heavy legs (and arms) at the chronic end of the spectrum. If I was lying in bed it actually felt as though I had an invisible man lying on top of me who was pushing my body into the bed. I can assure you that this is a very disturbing feeling. I still experience heavy legs and arms from time to time, but usually the feeling is on the milder side of the scale. I have found mild stretches in the morning and evening reduce the problem considerably.

I don't recommend these if the problem is at the "chronic" side of the spectrum, but if the problem is on the milder side give them a go. Don't over do it - if your muscles are not used to being stretched then break them in gently. My physio recommended the following stretches when to aid my route to recovery.

1) The hamstring stretch (figure: left)

lying flat on the floor with knees stretched to 90 degrees and back flat on the floor. Slowly raise and straighten one leg, grasping it loosely with behind the thigh with both hands.

2) The calf stretch (figure:right)

Standing 3-4 feet from a wall with feet in position shown perpindicular to the wall. Lean against your forearms while maintaining a straight line through the spine and your back heel firmly on the floor.

3) The quad stretch (figure:left)

Stand with one hand against the wall for balance. Bring the foot up to the hand and grasp around the ankle. Pull gently upwards until the stretch is felt. Remember to keep the knees side by side.

Thank you to the city of Saskatoon leisure programme for the images and text.


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