Idiopathic Toe Walking (an update)

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Reprinted from January 2011 on my previous blog.  My first toe-walking post can be found here.

Last time I wrote about K’s (age 8) toe walking, I summarized the background of her problem and explained our desire to correct this issue without surgery.  She was a TIPPY-TOE walker.  Whenever she walked, whenever she stood, she was on her very TIP TOES.  The picture below is April 2010…she has been walking this way since she began walking at age 1.

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Our parental desire to avoid surgery was against the opinion and advice of the orthopedic doctor.  He truly feels that our daughter will still need surgery and repeatedly reminds us that we are going against his advice.  Honestly, we are thankful that we have been confident in our desire to try alternatives with the knowledge of our daughter and our situation.  It hasn’t always been easy to have the professionals continually question your decision.

The good news is that things look GREAT!  In fact, the results are very promising and we are so grateful for K and her hard work.

When her casts were removed, K was immediately put in orthotics for her foot.  We immediately headed to the store for a wide range of cool knee high socks…she loved picking out some fun ones!

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She wore the braces for 22 hours a day for the first month.  During this time, her range increased from 8/9 (immediately after the casts were removed) to 15/16 (in a NORMAL range!).   *If you recall, we began this process at –1 and –5.  This increase was due to her PT and her commitment to do her exercises 3 times a day.  We were so excited.

At the end of month, the orthopedic doctor was clearly shocked at the results, but expressed, yet again, his opinion that she would revert and still require surgery.  Admittedly, this was quite discouraging, but I knew that he had the right to his opinion based on his experience, so I just smiled and nodded my head.  Afterall, if she does need the surgery, we certainly don’t want to have offended the surgeon!

He also wanted to remove her from PT completely.  I was very upset at that suggestion.  Her PT has been one of the one folks “on our side” through this process, completely hopeful and supportive of our decision to avoid surgery.  She has monitored K so closely and helped us make some great decisions.  In addition, the exercises have been so wonderful for K and have clearly built her muscle strength and flexibility.  Thankfully, I was able to convince him to continue to send her every other week.  (I need him to make the referral for our insurance company)

For month #2, K was able to continue to take a 2-3 hour break each day from her braces.  She also was able to begin to alternate the nights that she wore the braces on her legs.  Finally a break for her legs at night!!!

We continued to see great progress and whenever K was off of her braces, we never saw her walk tippy-toe.  When we returned to the doctor at the end of month two, our main concern was sore spots on her foot being caused by her braces.  It was quite clear that the doctor felt that this was being caused by her attempts to toe walk while wearing the braces.  He basically said so much when he came into the office.  Then, he reiterated his opinion about the surgery…again.

BUT, when he took off her braces and had a look, he admitted his error.  The braces needed some adjusting and her sores had nothing to do with attempts to toe walk.  He FINALLY admitted that we “might have proved him wrong”.  K’s feet are doing excellent and she is on the road to avoid surgery.  At that point, he suggested that we pick an entire day each week to let K take a break from her braces.

So, she now wears her braces every other night, and everyday of the week except Wednesday!  We have continued to see her remain flat feet, even when playing basketball twice a week.  We feel quite confident that we are coming toward the end of the road!

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I was searching for a picture of her braces, but I couldn’t find one.  I found one more meaningful to me instead.  Before this process, we would never have been able to get a photo like this one…

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K has worked very hard to focus on her walking and exercises.  Without a doubt, this is a huge part of the reason for her success.  Yet, the fact that we homeschool has been a HUGE advantage in beating the odds.  The doctor has admitted to us that most 8 year olds just won’t wear the braces and they fight it until the parents wear down.  Most 8 year olds get teased at school and don’t want to feel different.  Thankfully, in our homeschool situation, the children she hangs out with at bible class and co-op classes wouldn’t dare make fun of her.  Instead, they have sent her cards, prayed for her, and supported her through the process.  I am immensely grateful that at the tender age of 8, she can’t even fathom someone making fun of her “difference” right now, nor could she see a reason to make fun of someone else’s.  In this case, homeschooling has definitely been a clear advantage.

While I worried about the “late” timing of our attack on this issue, once again God’s timing has proved perfect.  K is at the right age to stick with her exercises and commit to this change.  She understands what is happening and has worked hard to break her habit.  For her, this timing has been wonderful.

If all continues to go well, then at the end of this month she will be allowed to drop another day.  We will keep dropping days at a more rapid rate at that point, assuming we continue to see her walk flat footed.  I think we’ll be done with braces sometime before Spring, or around that time.  It’s been a long journey, but one we are thankful has worked out.

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