When I was 10, kids asked me, "Why do you walk funny? Did you have polio?" and I never knew quite what to say. Today from time to time, people who have known me for years ask, "Did you hurt your foot? Your leg? Why are you limping?" and I now reply, "It’s just the way I walk." And that’s the way it’s always been.
When I was a child, I was in denial over this problem that caused me to walk differently from other children, telling myself that if I just tried I could change the way I walked. When I was 10, my mother had a 1/4" lift put on the right heel of my new Easter shoes and I refused to wear them until she had it removed. I didn’t want to admit to being different. At about that same age, I remember having some pretty intense pain in my right hip as I went through a growth spurt.
At 14 I fell down for the first time and experienced the embarrassment of being in jr. high school and finding myself splat on the pavement. I still ignored the source of the problem and my parents had long since quit noticing.
So how does this problem manifest itself? My right leg is a tiny bit shorter than my left, my pelvis is twisted to the left, and I have a slight scoliosis in my back. When I walk I swing my right foot out and around and if there is anything raised in the sidewalk or pavement, my toe is likely to catch on it.
Over the years I have sought answers and healing from every sort of professional imaginable: orthopedists, physiatrists, rheumatologists, chiropractors, physical therapists, massage therapists, acupuncturists, and probably some others that I have forgotten.
Yesterday I added one more specialist to this list – an osteopath, who had been recommended by my yoga teacher and my friend who does bodywork. They had both used him for different sorts of injuries and had good things to say about his approach to healing.
I went in with absolutely no expectations, having been disappointed so many times before. One of his first questions was "When did you first notice this problem?" to which I responded that it had been with me my entire life, from the time I took my first steps as a baby. I did explain that my birth had been a difficult one, as I was a baby in the worst possible breech position.
After a thorough exam, he proceeded to describe the details of my position in utero and exactly what might have happened during the birthing process that resulted in my hips with diminished mobility and my constricted spine and legs that don’t always move so well. I wanted to cry when I envisioned the trauma my body had probably received during that 48-hour period. No one had ever before traced this condition back to my birth as the original source.
He requested that I bring in some X-rays so that he can corroborate what he found in the physical examination. He suggested that I see him at least several more times, while he figures out where to go with my case. This is not the first doctor to have more questions than answers, but at least he has some new answers that I had never heard before.
It’s too early to say, but I’m thinking this might just be the one who at least gives me the understanding I need and the medical intervention to keep this condition from worsening as I grow older.