Don’t Step Off the Ladder Without Looking

Over the past ten years several of my friends have broken a leg or a hip because they fell off a ladder. This seems to be a common accident among the over 75 crowd. Since I fall into that category, I am very aware of my dynamics whenever I climb a ladder. During my House in a House project I had many occasions to use a ladder. Instead of not using a ladder I studied my posture and body mechanics as I ascended and descended from said appliance. I have noticed with some alarm that my legs don’t seem to function as well as they did when I was younger. For instance, when I walk down stairs, I must hold onto a bannister to maintain my balance. What I am really doing is holding on whenever I bend my knee to lower my body to the next step. I lose control about mid-step. My knee suddenly gives out and the last half of the down step is a sudden release. Actually, it has nothing to do with my knee. It has everything to do with the muscles that control the step. My quads, as they are referred to, are no longer strong enough to hold my body weight after the knee has bent a few degrees. Each time I am on a ladder and it is time to step down I must be holding on for dear life, and I must see the step to which I am descending. A step down also requires a lot of concentration on the quad. The muscle never seems to be in control of the complete step. It is a short stretch down followed by a sudden drop. It has become obvious to me that if I don’t see the next step I could easily step off, or through the ladder, or miss the step completely. That move would be surprisingly sudden, and most likely I would lose balance and fall. This phenomenon doesn’t happen on an up step, but always on the down step. It doesn’t matter if I am coming down from a ladder or moving down stairs.

I also notice this happening when I am in church and I bend my knee to genuflect, I can’t touch my knee to the floor anymore. A similar weakness seems to occur whenever I enter my car. I have adapted a style of entry that puts my butt in and over the seat before I allow my knee to bend. Once my rear is safely in and above the chair I let go and drop into the seat.

I wonder if this is somehow peculiar to me, and related to my polio from seventy years ago. My legs were affected and my right leg in particular lost muscle. I am lucky that the remaining muscle has been able to carry the burden. It has been reported that people who had polio might experience paralysis as they age. The theory postulated is that the compensating muscles strands have tired out after many years of service. They go on strike and stop working. Contrary to this opinion are all the old people I see who have not had polio who still have problems genuflecting, walking down stairs, and stepping off ladders.

What I feel I must do is to strengthen my quadricep muscle so it will allow such moves. This will be helpful provided I don’t have Post-polio Syndrome (PPS). If I am experiencing PPS exercising may be further damaging. If I don’t have PPS then it becomes a matter of getting off my lazy ass to start working out.

2 Responses

  1. My knees won’t pull me up anymore if I’m on the floor or outside ground working and need to be on my hands and knees for this or that. I have to have something to pull myself up or I can’t get up. Standing up for all the hymns they insist on singing at church is getting difficult too.

    • It is sad to say, but I seem to have a lot of company in this regard. Thanks for your comment.

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