5 Necessary Evils When You Wear Leg Braces

A necessary evil is something that must be done or accepted in order to achieve a better outcome. Basically, it’s a scary and/or unenjoyable act that sucks in the moment, but the consequences of not doing it can suck way more than the act itself.

Necessary evils for all of us include things like going to the dentist and filing taxes. They are non-negotiable. Sure, you can procrastinate them for a little while, (eg. file for an extension/put off going to the dentist until you feel pain) but eventually you do the deed because you know you have to.

While necessary evils are inherently unenjoyable for everyone, some of them can be extremely challenging and frightening for people with physical challenges and/or disabilities. What follows are five common necessary evils & tips for making them a bit more palpable.

1. EXERCISE

5 Necessary Evils When You Wear Leg Braces

There are people (like my husband who runs 8 miles in the AM before lifting weights for another hour) who actually enjoy working out. Not me! On the contrary, exercise is a chore I have to do because as the saying goes, “move it or lose it!”. And, with my 48 year old metabolism, exercise allows me to eat an occasional carb & drink wine without immediately gaining 5 pounds.

So since my neuromuscular disorder has no cure or treatment, (start here to learn more about me & Charcot Marie Tooth Disorder), the only thing I can do to try to maintain my muscle strength and slow down the progression of my symptoms is to exercise. On occasion, I’ve used at home fitness apps like the ones mentioned in my post, Best Apps for people with disabilities , but since I’m not that self-motivated, I’ve found the only way I can actually stick to a workout routine is by pre-scheduling group fitness classes.

It can be scary and humbling to attend group fitness classes when you have an invisible disability. Even though I’ve been doing Pilates for more than 20 years, I still find it unnerving to have to explain to each newbie instructor why I’m in an advanced Pilates class but cannot do planks with bare feet or stand on top of the machines without holding onto something.

So, a few weeks ago I decided that I needed to step up my cardio game (cuz I did none) and tried an indoor cycling class (how hard can it be I thought? After all, there are handles and you don’t have to stand up on the bike). Well, It was a disaster. Without going into all the traumatic details (eg. one of my leg braces slipped out of it’s clipped shoe & the shoe took the rest of the class without my foot’s participation).

Even though it was embarrassing and I probably won’t be going back to that studio, I was proud of myself for at least trying. In retrospect, I should have done a quick refresher of my post called, A Plate Of Pride: A Recipe For Asking For Help When You Have An Invisible Disability.  Had I been more pro-active and spoken to a manager (not just the seemingly self-absorbed instructor) beforehand about my limitations, it might have been a different and better experience. Maybe I’ll try kickboxing next time? Not!

5 Necessary Evils When You Wear Leg Braces

I don’t know anyone who likes getting a mammogram. There is just nothing enjoyable about having to hold your breath while standing half naked in various awkward positions while a total stranger grabs & maneuvers your breasts, sandwiching them between two cold metal plates like mushy flat pancakes.

Add to this, a person having physical challenges like poor balance and fine motor weakness (hospital gowns really should have velcro closures instead of ties), and the typical stress of getting a mammogram is quadrupled. Yep, not fun…But you don’t need me to tell you that if you’re a woman over 40 (or younger if you have a family history of breast cancer) you gotta get a yearly mammogram because the temporary stress is worth early cancer detection .

One way to lessen the stress of getting a mammogram is practicing good communication. If you require the use of a wheelchair or scooter, you might want to ask the phone scheduler if the machines can be adjusted in order for you to remain seated. If your disability is not visible, be proactive and inform the radiology tech about your limitations before beginning. You might say something like, “I have difficulty balancing when I’m not holding onto something” or, “I have a neuromuscular condition that makes it hard for me to stand unsupported and/or lift my arms unassisted.” If dressing and undressing is a challenge, you might want to ask about wearing a shirt that opens easily in the front so that you don’t have to change. For more everyday adaptive dressing tips, check out my Post with tips called DIY Adaptive fashion..

5 Necessary Evils When You Wear Leg Braces

Another necessary evil that goes hand in hand with getting a mammogram is wearing a bra. Unless you’ve had implants, or you have young, perky, never nursed a kid kind of breasts, then you most likely wouldn’t leave your house without a bra.

In an unofficial survey I conducted on Trend-Able’s Facebook and Instagram Pages, the act of putting on a bra is reportedly one of my followers’ greatest pain-points when it comes to getting dressed. Although you can buy bra fastening aids, magnetic bra attachments, and adaptive front closure bras, I’ve found this pretty, over the head bralette to be not only easy to put on, but also comfortable & supportive.

5 Necessary Evils When You Wear Leg Braces

I know I’m dating myself, but there was a time when going to the airport was actually fun and  something that many travelers looked forward to. Back then airlines didn’t nickel & dime you for every little thing (seriously Spirit? Even carry-ons?) and we didn’t even know to worry about things like peanut allergies and hidden explosives in shoes. Heck, you could smoke cigarettes in airports and even on planes in my time. Of course, those days are long gone…

In my Post called First World Problems With An Invisible Disability, I discuss in detail the headache of going through airport security when you wear Afos (leg braces) or have other types of not obvious physical challenges. We all know that TSA lines are a necessary evil when it comes to traveling and living your best life despite disability. Since my husband and I travel several times a year, I’ve found that getting TSA pre-screened (5 years cost about $80) has saved me a ton of aggravation as you’re not required to stand with your hands behind your head in 3D machines or take off your shoes.

If you are not TSA pre-screened, communication with the TSA officer before going through the machine is necessary. A simple statement like, “I have a disability and cannot take off my shoes to walk through” is sufficient. The officer will then signal to another officer that you require a pat down. This is the time to ask for a chair (if they don’t offer one) and to take a few deep breaths. If people are looking at you, ignore them and tell yourself it doesn’t matter. Next, a same sex TSA officer will likely pat your whole body down and swab your shoes, orthosis, and hands for explosive materials. It’s uncomfortable, but it will be over quickly…Unless of course you happen to be a terrorist with a disability reading this Blog. If so, you (and maybe me) have bigger problems.

5 Necessary Evils When You Wear Leg Braces

The last necessary evil on this list is shaving. If it wasn’t so expensive and time-consuming, I would definitely have laser hair removal done on my entire body. In college I experimented with the whole feminist, hippy dippy, why should women have to shave thing. I went two weeks without shaving both  my legs & armpits. I quickly discovered that the au natural look for me was unnatural. I looked and felt like a poser and never again went more than a few days (winter doesn’t count) without shaving.

But with a slowly progressive neuromuscular disorder that affects my hand grip and fine motor skills, my post shave showers look like they can double as crime scenes for an episode of CSI.

I have found a few products to make shaving easier when you have a disability. This long handled razor is awesome for people who have difficulty bending. Also  If you don’t already have a shower ledge or seat, this bamboo shower seat is attractive and non medical looking. Finally, if you’re like me and discover random chin hairs (a lovely reality of aging), while putting on makeup using a magnifier mirror,  I’ve found this electric facial and bikini hair remover to be indispensable.

5 Necessary Evils When You Wear Leg Braces

Did you find this post relatable? Helpful? Do you have any other tips for dealing with the above or other necessary evils?  I would love to hear from you in the comments below.  Also if you haven’t already joined our Perfectly Imperfect Tribe, I hope you will do so now. I won’t sell your email or overshare…Plus, I post really cool & useful stuff.

Ps. Want my CMT Fighter tee or the EmBRACE it tee Estela is wearing on the cover? Visit our Store and use the code “TREND-ABLE” to take 20% your purchase. 10% of the proceeds will go to the HNF to help people with disabilities build self-confidence and live their best lives.

Xoxo

Lainie

14 Comments

  1. I myself have cmt also. I’m a 35 yr old and mother of teen boys. I’m in Northern indiana. I also find it hard to find good clothes that are easy for me to wear. Lots of tees and sweats in my closet. I’m excited to find easy clothes to wear. My hands don’t open and have had around 20 surgeries. Lately it’s getting worse and I’m tired all the time. I was so happy to read your article. Your doing a great job.

    • Hi Heather,

      I saw your response to this new post last night and thought about you (it’s really hot) when I couldn’t sleep at 3AM. I think it struck me because I remember all the surgeries my late mom had and how after everything, her hands were still fistlike. I also thought about you being such a young mom of two teenage boys. Your challenges and disability is on a positive note grooming them to someday become amazing husbands and men. I hope you have them doing their laundry, making lunches, cooking with you etc…I bet they are more empathetic than other boys their age & this will help them get further in every area of their lives. On another note, I want you to toss the sweats please!! This is why I created this website. You say, “it’s getting worse and I’m tired all the time”. The sweats are like pajamas making you more tired. I want to help in any way I can. Please take the time to have someone put loops in your pants so you can use your thumbs to pull them up. Reach out to me anytime for outfit suggestions if you don’t find them in my posts. Thank you for writing and being so real. Xo Lainie

  2. Estela’s description of going through airport security is spot-on. I have the challenge of getting through with BOTH knee replacements and AFOs. It’s never easy, but you just have to zone out and be assertive when necessary.

    • Ladies I work at the airport and it is spot on going thru security without TSA precheck! When I’m working and in uniform I go thru precheck, when I’m traveling I have to go thru the long lines and as Lainie said the swabbing , touching , probing etc!! It’s a nightmare!! World problems for sure!! 🙄

  3. Whay a fabulous, positivr and hella practical post!! Yes, bra closures have become challenging, I will try a bralette. And the chin haur, I’m 56 and Italian and these chin hairs are sneaky and tough. I am having trouble grasping even ergonomic tweezers so I will try this.
    And mammograms, yes, all great tips.
    You are the best, Lainie! I so appreciate you making me feel less weird.

    • Thanks my friend! Ugh ! The chin hairs (and sometimes random ones on my neck) are the worst!. You’re gonna love the hair remover as it’s a cheap & easy life-changer . 💜💜

  4. My tip for mammograms is to go there without a bra and without deodorant and wear an easy to remove knit shirt….all under a jacket….so you can go right into the scan room. My clinic is happy with that and they can do the scan with me sitting in my scooter.

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