A step forward

I stopped wearing night splints in 2003, two years after ankle contracture surgery on both legs. Therapy thought I needed to stop wearing them because they made it difficult for me to lie on my side comfortably. Though it was freeing not wearing them, I was concerned that my ankles would contract.

In 2006, therapy evaluated me for dynamic splints that Medicare purchased. Those splints were like a treatment to stretch my heel cords. I wore them on the outside of my slacks with my "inside the shoe" braces already on for several hours during the day.

I did not wear the dynamic splints for two years after I moved to this nursing home. I noticed more hip pain, and my right ankle was stiffer and frequently rolled in my "inside the shoe" braces, so I began wearing them again.

Some aides asked why I wore the clunky dynamic splints. I told them they stretched my heel cords. But since they were pretty worn, I wondered if they were still doing the job.

I asked about getting new splints a couple of years ago. Therapy told me Medicare no longer purchased them. They showed me a different splint that could be worn standing, sitting or lying down. It looked like a sandal without a toe and had a nonslip surface on the bottom. I feared therapy wanted me to wear the "sandal type" splints and eliminate my "inside the shoe" braces, so I said I did not feel comfortable wearing them.

Late last year, Medicare replaced the more than 12-year-old "inside the shoe" braces. I thought those braces would straighten my foot quickly but after a while I realized my muscles were too tight.

In the spring, therapy was working to stretch my hips and legs, I asked about getting night splints for ankle contracture. I thought maybe my hips would feel better if my ankles were properly aligned for part of the night.

The splints arrived at the end of June. They look like a big cushioned rectangular boot. But, they hold my feet straight. In fact the first night I tried them, my left hip started aching from the tendons and muscles being pulled.

The first couple of nights, the splints hurt after a couple of hours and had to be removed. I was soon able to wear them six hours for six days without a problem. Some nights I can wear them for several hours, and other nights my leg feels like it is in a vice after four hours.

Though I am building tolerance slowly, my hip pain has diminished when I am sitting in my power chair or in bed sitting up using my laptop.

Wearing the night splints makes me feel like I am participating in therapy to stretch my ankles, knees and hips. I feel working on improving my physical self improves my quality of life.

Topics: Rehabilitation