Physical Therapy Makes a Difference
At age 63, Maureen Kerr had no advance warning that she had an underlying neurological problem affecting her left foot. One day last October when she got up from sitting, her foot simply “wasn’t working.”
“One day it was fine, and the next day it wasn’t,” says Maureen, who went to see her primary care physician, Dr. Hassnain Syed, the very next day. “Dr. Syed said it was drop foot.”
Caused by weakness or paralysis of the muscles used to lift the front part of the foot, drop foot causes an involuntarily dragging of the toes of the affected foot when attempting to walk. That was precisely the case for Maureen.
“I was very self-conscious of my foot. It was 100% dragging, and I had to lift my thigh higher than normal when I was walking to get my foot off the ground,” explains Maureen, who also has difficulties twisting and bending due to rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis. “If I wore a boot with a heel I walked better, but I was tripping and stumbling. I was really scared and thought, what if I fall?”
Although Maureen didn’t fall, she did accidentally step on a skate board because of her unsteadiness, and the skate board flipped up and slammed into her right knee giving her another ailment. That’s when Dr. Syed recommended physical therapy.
While she was waiting for PT to begin, Maureen had x-rays of her back and knee and a consultation with Morris Hospital Neurologist Samuel Quaynor, M.D., where she was officially diagnosed with neuropathy, a condition that results from damage to the peripheral nerve in the leg.
Maureen admits she wasn’t looking forward to physical therapy.
“I always thought physical therapy was helpful after an injury or surgery,” says Maureen. “I thought, what am I going to do with a dead foot?”
From the end of November until mid-January, she went to the Morris Hospital Ridge Road Campus for her physical therapy sessions twice weekly. Her therapists led her through various exercises and techniques aimed at strengthening the leg muscles, preventing stiffness in her heel, and improving range of motion in her knee and ankle. They also used interferential current therapy, a type of electrical stimulation, to help reduce Maureen’s lower back pain.
For someone who didn’t look forward to going to therapy, Maureen says she always felt 100% better after each session.
“After 4 or 5 sessions, I looked at my daughter and said, ‘I can lift my toes!’ Before therapy, I wasn’t able to move them off the floor whatsoever. They added 4 or 5 sessions because the therapy was working so well. I didn’t want to quit.”
While the neuropathy still causes a tingling sensation from Maureen’s knee to toes, Morris Hospital Physical Therapy Assistant Belinda Hill says Maureen had a very positive outcome.
“Maureen’s foot drop and back/leg pain was affecting her overall quality of her life,” says Hill. “It was also a big safety concern because she was more likely to fall with the foot drop. At the end of her rehab time, she had almost full return of her foot strength and no longer needs to wear a brace. Her pain also has been significantly reduced.”
From Maureen’s perspective, she is no longer self-conscious or worried about walking and no longer needs to use her thigh to lift her foot off the ground. Meanwhile, she continues to do stretching, strengthening, and balance exercises that the therapists taught her.
“Now I can lift my toes an inch or so off the floor while I’m sitting,” says Maureen. “My left leg still isn’t as good as my right leg, but it is way better than when I was completely dragging my foot.”
A former healthcare worker, Maureen is very complimentary of the care she received from Hill, Physical Therapist Rose Gampon, and the rest of the staff at the Morris Hospital Ridge Road Campus
“They went completely out of their way to help me with anything I needed every time I was there,” Maureen says. “The lady at the front desk always remembered my name. When I needed a statement for insurance purposes, they printed it out for me. The two therapists were just wonderful, very caring, and made sure you knew what they were talking about before you left. They really care about their jobs.”
Morris Hospital offers outpatient physical and occupational therapy at the Diagnostic & Rehabilitative Center of Morris Hospital in Morris, the Diamond-Coal City Campus, and the Ridge Road Campus in Channahon. Outpatient speech therapy is available at the Morris location. For more information, visit morrishospital.org/rehabservices or call 815-705-7828.