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Thread: Difficulty walking distances

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
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    Oregon
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    Difficulty walking distances

    Hi folks. I (along with a great new physical therapist) am still trying to figure out why I cannot walk continuously more than 2-4 blocks without having to slow way down or stop for a minute or so before continuing. What happens is that I get an intense feeling of strain in my hip area (both sides), like I'm walking up a steep hill instead of on level ground. After standing still for 30-60seconds, I can start walking again like nothing happened. Until another couple of blocks...another stop and rest...etc.

    (I am 52, and eight years ago I could walk very fast and easily for 2 miles or more without stopping; this problem began rather gradually and has continued to worsen over the years.)

    My PCP said he thought it was caused by a muscle imbalance related to scoliosis. He sent me to a physiatrist, who was not terribly helpful but seemed to agree with the PCP.

    An EMG in my legs was normal (thus, no peripheral neuropathy). An X-ray showed that my hip joints are just fine. Strength testing by both the physiatrist and the PT showed no significant weakness anywhere.

    The PT is the one who finally told me the details of my scoliosis! It's a 33-degree thoracic curve well balanced by a 30-degree lumbar curve. (The orthopedist I'd seen three years ago didn't mention or show me any thoracic curve and said the lumbar curve was 35 degrees, but whatever. Maybe I was just standing different. He also told me it wasn't the cause of my walking trouble.)

    My scoliosis was diagnosed in 4th grade but gave me no problems most of my life; in fact I didn't even see a doctor for it between ages 13 and 49.

    Anyway, the PT feels that my inability to walk continuously for any distance is not a hip problem (because of normal strength and no arthritis seen in the hips, which is amazing considering I'm 50 lbs overweight) but rather a problem of the spinal canal being narrowed by the scoliosis and affecting the nerves. (I don't have any pain down the legs, though, and only minor pain in the lower back with certain movements.)

    My question: Does anyone else have this problem of having to stop (due to strain, NOT pain) and rest your muscles during continuous walking, or having to slow your walking WAY down in order to keep going? Does this sound like something scoliosis could cause?

    Nancy

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Posts
    1,258
    Hi Nancy ~

    I'm 60 (today) and I have a similar problem when walking any significant distance - my doctor has filed paperwork that allows me a handicapped license plate for life. Such was not always the case - I used to be able to walk the mall for hours with my daughter and this problem only surfaced in the last five years or so. My curvature is a tad more significant than yours.

    My answer to your question is yes - I experience the same things. I have no other health problems (and am not overweight) so it does seem as though this could be scoliosis related in my case. I am currently using a bracing treatment which seems to be helping with this annoying addition to my maturity.
    Last edited by mamamax; 11-21-2009 at 02:42 PM.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    Oregon
    Posts
    953
    Hi Nancy,

    I'm just wondering, has your doctor completely ruled out intermittent claudication from peripheral vascular disease as the cause of you symptoms? The reliable reproduction of your symptoms sounds like it could be similar to that. Peripheral vascular disease high up in the pelvic arteries (distal aorta, iliac arteries) can cause symptoms of claudication in the hips and buttocks. Vascular ultrasound can diagnose this problem.

    Good luck,
    Gayle, age 46
    Boston brace as a teen for AIS
    Oct. 2010 fusion T8-sacrum w/ pelvic fixation, TLIF at L4/5.
    Feb 2012 major A/P revision for broken rods


    mom of Leah, 12 y/o, diagnosed Jan '08 with 26* thoracic JIS (age 6)
    4/08 26 degrees, brace 16 hrs/day
    9/08 17 deg. OOB - brace discontinued
    9/09 30 deg, resuming brace
    5/10 VBS Dr Luhmann Shriners St Louis
    11/13 stable 3.5 yrs post-op, 15 deg

    also mom of Torrey, 9 y/o son, 12* T, decreasing spontaneously (from 19*)

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Adelaide, Australia
    Posts
    424
    Hi Nancy,

    What you described above is the exact that i was experiencing prior to surgery. I am so relieved that the pain is gone, however, what others have posted makes for interesting investigations as well. Hope you find the cause of your problem soon.
    Vali
    44 years young! now 45
    Surgery - June 1st, 2009
    Dr David Hall - Adelaide Spine Clinic
    St. Andrews Hospital, Adelaide, South Australia
    Pre-op curve - 58 degree lumbar
    Post -op - 5 degrees
    T11 - S1 Posterior
    L4/5 - L5/S1 Anterior Fusion

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Posts
    3,487
    Hi Nancy
    am wondering if it could be caused by sacroiliac problems? just a thought...

    jess

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    Oregon
    Posts
    35
    Wow, thanks for the replies, everyone! Mamamax and Vali, it is interesting to hear that others with scoliosis have the same problem. In the past (and continuing to a lesser extent in the present) I have had symptoms suggestive of possible MS, so I worried about the walking decline, but I am only too happy to attribute it to scoliosis. (Though of course it would be better if it were something for which there were an easy solution.)

    Mamamax, I did try a corset-type brace which the physiatrist gave me. I could not even walk a whole block with THAT thing on!! It just made the strain a lot worse! What kind of brace do you use?

    The PT gave me exercises to "open up my back" (i.e., try to increase the space in the spinal canal even if only temporarily), and advised me to always try to remember to sit and stand tall and suck in my gut (she didn't use that phrase, but that's what I think of!) to help strengthen the muscles. Too early to tell if it's helping.

    Gayle, yes, my family doctor ruled out vascular claudication. He thoroughly tested the circulation (pulses?) in my ankles and feet and said if there were circulation problems higher up, I wouldn't have such good circulation in my lower legs. Also, I am not at high risk for vascular claudication. Interesting that you mentioned this, however, because I asked him specifically about this after hearing the neurologist last summer mention it, and when I looked it up, it sounded just like my problem--the way that it comes on so regularly after a certain distance. But he is certain that's not the problem.

    Jess, I don't know anything about sacroiliac problems... what symptoms does that entail? I feel pretty confident that my regular doctor and the PT I'm seeing are knowledgeable and really trying to figure out my problem. The PT seems to specialize in scoliosis and has spent a lot of time with me and really listened and examined me, looked at my x-rays, etc. I see her again in six weeks.

    I at least hope I can assign a probable cause to the walking problem. It's hard to know what to tell people when you have to stop frequently, walk slowly (can't even keep up with my 79-year-old mother who has severe fibromyalgia), and use walking sticks for longer walks. If I can just say, it's from my scoliosis, that makes it easier.

    Thanks everyone!

    Nancy

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Posts
    1,258
    Hi Nancy - I'm glad we could share some similar experiences and ease your fears a bit. Of course, nothing can beat medical clearance for the other things you mentioned. My medical doctor apparently just assumed my symptoms were from scoliosis combined with my age, it appears - now I wonder if I shouldn't investigate further. When walking, I fair much better when I'm in brace, and I am wearing the Spinecor brace (original adolescent model). Sounds like you have a wonderful PT and family doctor.

    Vali's comments were very interesting and I agree that this makes for some interesting investigation. Hope we hear from some others.

    As for what to tell others who may not understand - maybe just tell them the truth, a spinal deformity sometimes proves challenging. Lord knows, that IS the truth ;-)

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Posts
    3,487
    Hi Nancy
    sent you a private message...

    best regards
    jess

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Geneseo, NY
    Posts
    130

    walking poles

    Yes, I experience difficulty walking similar to this. I probably have stenosis at the base of my fusion. I have found walking (hiking) poles helpful in enabling me to keep going. My curvature above and below my fusion has worsened in the past few years; I have lost 2" of height. You could experiment with ski poles or long garden tools to see if this helps you.
    1966 fusion in Buffalo of 11 thoracic vertebrae, with Harrington rod

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