Two Left Feet

Reprinted from PN December 2007

Biofeedback therapy may not work for everyone, but it appears to be helping this PN reader overcome some of the damage caused by MS.

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Like most people, I learned to walk by the time I was a year old. My parents passed on to a better life long ago, but of all the stories they told me, I don't recall ever hearing about a walking manual.

Standing in front of his TV may once have been a problem for Frank Cáceres but, since therapy, the control of his muscles helps maintain his balance.
Now that I'm a grandfather, I've experienced the joy of watching my youngest grandbabies turn over by themselves, crawl, then walk. But I never saw them following a book of instructions. Maybe it was on a disk, CD, or something like that?

I asked my son if he had a DVD with detailed illustrations showing the baby which muscles to use. I said there was no such learning aid available to me when I took my first steps. (He quickly reminded me there were no DVDs back then. In fact, the only thing that had occurred before I learned to walk was the Big Bang.) Being a reasonably intelligent man, I quickly deduced that learning to walk must fall under the "instinct" category, not unlike eating, sleeping, or filling a diaper.

After all those miles I've logged with my legs, I had taken the act of walking for granted. I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 1996, and a hemi paresis had slowly but insidiously set in on my right side. Walking like I used to had become impossible. Like most people living with MS, I had resigned myself to spending less time on my feet and more on my rump.

Then I read an article (Healing Options, by James P. Kelly and S. Laurance Johnston, PhD) in the June and July 2007 issues of PN that describes biofeedback therapy, a treatment method for people with spinal-cord dysfunction. I had heard of biofeedback, but it was generally in connection with stress reduction, pain management, and blood-pressure control.

The facility featured in the article is located in Miami, Fla., about 300 miles southeast of my home. I drove there for an evaluation and, for the first time in nearly 12 years, I could see the real possibility that I might reverse some of the neurological damage MS had left me with. The theory is simple: Given sufficient visual stimulation, the human brain is capable of "learning" new pathways over which to send neurological impulses to the affected muscles.

Find out more about how biofeedback therapy has helped the author.


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