Legs are numb. Now what?

Gentle Reader,

climbing the steps to Montmartre
Daunting climb to Montmartre Basilica

The Sunday before leaving for three weeks in France I was standing in the choir and my right leg lost most of its feeling.  It tingled down to the foot.  I could see I was standing.  I could feel my upper body level, but my legs were numb.  All I could think of was what if this happens in France, in the middle of the Place de la Republic or climbing the steps to Montmartre?  

reduce back pain with an inversion table
Inversion table to relieve spinal pressure and collapse

I went home immediately and strapped myself into my inversion table, rocked back and forth a few times and then hung upside-down for as long as I could stand it.  The numbness went away, but what was I going to do in France?

Place de Contrescarpe, Paris left bank
me on the front porch, pic by Kevin S. Moul, writer/photographer

Walking around Paris, moving slowly from our Paris Oasis beneath Montmartre all the way to Place de Contrescarpe on the Left Bank, my right leg remained numb.  I could keep from falling by concentrating on the placement of my foot, using focus and intention rather than unconscious walking.  I was definitely preoccupied when we stopped in at the Shakespeare and Co. book store, the one-time lending library which catered to the young writers hanging out in Paris before WWII and after.  These authors included Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Ford Madox Ford, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ezra Pound.  We were going to study the writings of some of these in our week long writers’ retreat with Natalie Goldberg.  Distracted, my cell phone disappeared.  No posting on face book, no phoning via skype.  I was about to enjoy a complete vacation from electronic communication and was able to focus solely on writing and meditation.  Natalie’s retreats are conducted in silence except for class time.  That means meals, and morning and evening bath and bedroom negotiations among the 10 women living in La Solitude, a quarter mile from the Ferme Villefavard.  Can you imagine how you might emerge from such a phone free existence in a euphoric state of mind?

managing arthritis back pain and leg numbness
feet in chair, knees at right angle

My solution to the numbness problem was to hang from my knees with my feet out of the window in the second floor of this beautiful building (above).  This position lifted my sacrum and lower vertebra off the floor.  I used padding under my knees.  Then I lowered my self down (my butt is up against the wall under the window, here’s a picture I took when I was in New York City last month.

Every morning to open the sacrum and lower back

You can link to the image in a previous post.  The idea is to perform gentle pelvic clock motions to open up the pinched passage so the nerve endings can communicate with the feet and lower legs.  At home I use the Back2Life machine every morning.

Limousin cows
Limousin cows protect their young vigorously

The Writers’s retreat gave me plenty of opportunity to be quiet, write and read aloud.  The countryside was filled with Limousin cows, prime beef, and riotous wildflowers.  I managed to explore the Lascaux caves and canoe with my friend after the retreat.  The trip home was uneventful.  Because I had no phone, no phone money and no phone numbers, I took the light rail, the C Rapid ride bus to west Seattle and walked to my house pulling my suit case.

Keep moving, is what I say.  It would have been tempting to avoid stepping out into the streets of Paris, the roads around Villefavard, the deep caves and the castles of the Dordogne, but I did not.  I trusted my body would not fail me and it did not.

Be well, leave me a comment, Do well and Keep moving.


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JoAnne Grandstaff
JoAnne Grandstaff
10 years ago

This reminds me of my days sitting in hot tubs to release my spine before i discovered yoga. After several years, i allowed my discs to heal themselves, and now cannot remember the last time my legs went numb or pain shot down the backs of them. Now when i add new exercises to my routine, my muscles whine or knot up, but nothing that won’t be calmed with a soak and more stretching.
I love the manner in which you intertwined your retreat into your story of health issues, or lack thereof. I love to read your blog.

Yvette Meltzer
10 years ago

Betsy, I had no idea. I never heard a single complaint or comment from you about your legs or numbness. Thanks for sharing this and I love that I get to continue to “hear” your writing. You are an inspiration!

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10 years ago

You need to take part in a contest for one of the most useful blogs online. I am going to recommend this website!

10 years ago

[…] of major proportion.  No matter how many times I lay down on the floor and hung my knees over the Back2Life machine; no matter how many of Shaklee’s herbal Pain Relief Complex tablets I took, I could not […]

10 years ago

[…] 4.  I use the Back2Life machine daily and when my back is more sore than normal, I will relief the sore back by getting on the floor with my knees over the top of this contraption several times a day.  It’s gentle motion is like a Feldenkrais manipulation.  The small, steady lifting and lowering motion of the Back2Life machine, relaxes and opens up the sacrum, allowing blood to flow into the irritated and inflammed area.  The machine is set to do its work for about 13 minutes which is just about as long as a busy person can stand to… Read more »

Grace Bell
10 years ago

Thank you! So appreciate this. I hurt my back this week and am getting into the position you mentioned. Love that you showed pics!