Case Study: Avoidance of Foot Surgery  
   Maureen McHugh, Feldenkrais Practitioner                                           703-751-2111

Patrick Kelly: Avoidance of Foot Surgery
by Maureen McHugh

September 2005

In September 2004 Patrick Kelly, a vigorous 70 year old, was having severe, chronic knee pain, especially while walking, but also at night when wanting to sleep. He had been wearing orthotics for years. In the beginning, they helped, but recently they seemed to have lost their effectiveness.

When Patrick consulted with his GP about this decline, she recommended that he see a foot surgeon at a nearby university hospital.

Patrick went to see the foot surgeon who pointed out that both of John’s feet pronated severely. This meant that the arches were caved in. The surgeon said that the loss of the arch in the foot was the origin of the knee pain, and he recommended operations to each foot, beginning with the right.

Through a combination of bone fusions and implanted rods, the surgeon would give Patrick a new foot with an anatomically perfect arch. On the down side, however, there would be a lot of post-operative pain and a long recovery period. In addition, the operated foot would have no flexibility because everything would be fused into the ideal shape.

Patrick didn’t have to think long about this one. He refused. He didn’t think he could stand the pain. And, as a single father, he didn’t see how he could live with the post surgical limitations. Besides this, his very active mind thought “There must be another way.”

A friend recommended that he come to see me.

At our first meeting, it was very clear that Patrick’s feet do pronate severely and, yes, this can easily bring about knee pain. But, instead of surgery, I, naturally, recommended our Feldenkrais movement-based approach.

First, I asked Patrick to walk around the room and notice how walking felt. He said it felt uncomfortable.

Then I asked him to lie down and, going slowly, to move gently in a variety of places: in his hips, in his back, in his shoulders, and in his neck. I helped him with my hands to feel what I was asking for. It was like putting a drop of oil in each place. Then at the end of the session I asked Patrick to walk again. He felt a softness in his feet and a tingling there, like life was returning.

Patrick has been coming regularly for a year, and he has not yet achieved the perfect arch, in either foot. But, the feet are, gradually, changing shape, and becoming more serviceable for him. In addition, in many other parts of himself, he has become gradually more limber, and this has translated into more comfort in his feet and knees, both while walking and resting.

Patrick has also discovered a new pleasure in movement, and this confidence is rippling out in life generally. At work he was recently offered a chance to participate in a new initiative, the type of thing that he would typically have let slide by. But this time he said, “Why not? Let’s try it.” And so, living dangerously a little, he threw his hat into the ring.

 As Patrick was leaving the other night and walking very comfortably, he said,

“You know, there is nothing like increasing, rather than decreasing, in the good stuff.”