Cerebral palsy affects many things in my body. It is a neuromuscular deficit, so the muscles in my body react differently from those without a physical disability. The neurological pathways in charge of passing a message of movement from the brain to the muscles are inhibited. Most able bodied people have the ability to manipulate their muscles without attention being paid to the process. If my understanding is correct, you can tie a pair of shoes without thinking about where the laces need to be positioned in order to accomplish the task. Things are quite different in my daily journey with cerebral palsy. As I tie a pair of shoes the position of the laces during the process matters a great deal. I’m thinking through each step. Tying shoe laces is a 5 step ordeal instead of one fluid motion. I think about crossing the laces, then tightening them down, creating a loop, circling the loop and feeding the lace through in order to complete the process. Many things in my life require me thinking through the actions necessary to accomplish them.
It seems most people move with little thought. They can walk and talk without thinking of the specific muscle movements to accomplish the action. They can sign a piece of paper or pick up a plate of food without thought of their hand, shoulder, or chest position. I think about all those muscle positions before engaging in any physical activity. The same is true working out in the gym. While people may run on the treadmill or pick up a weight without thinking the action through. Their brain has the ability to relay a message telling the body how to move correctly in accomplishing those tasks. Cerebral palsy makes the transfer of the information more difficult. Because CP wants to tighten the muscles in my body, those neurological pathways can become pinched. Through concentration my brain attempts to override the deficit, telling my muscles directly the actions it would like from them. Imagine Gumby, the green guy from childhood who could be twisted up into different positions. My body is similar in ways to the little green fella, it always seems to be twisted a little out of place, which is one reason neurological signals experience road blocks on their journey from the brain to the muscle.
A few months ago my chiropractor found a shirt he thought would be helpful. It’s called an intelliskin shirt. The purpose of this shirt has been to keep the muscles of my upper body in the correct place. It is very tight to my upper body acting like a second skin. When I first decided to give it a try my first concern was getting in and out of it. Certain types of clothing can be a struggle to put on and when looking at the shirt my first thought was there’s no way I’ll be able to get in and out of it. The first shirt of this sort was designed like a t-shirt. After voicing my concern, I learned they made a half-zip type, which would be much easier to wear. I gave the t-shirt style a shot, with help, and found it felt good. Still skeptical we ordered the half-zip style for me to try.
Upon picking up my Intelliskin shirt I was given tips for the easiest use. Even with the tips, I left the shirt in its wrapping for a few weeks. I felt anxiety over how the shirt might feel. Anything I do that eases the symptoms of cerebral palsy can leave me tentative to truly start. When I finally unwrapped the shirt and put in on, I found it to be pretty amazing. The Intelliskin shirt held my upper body into a solid position. It kept the muscles in a symmetrical position taking away much of the effort I exude to sit or stand up straight. I noticed the shirt had me sitting up straighter in the car and thinking much more clearly as I walked through different stores. It relieved cerebral palsy from a physical standpoint, but also from a mental standpoint. My movements felt more smooth and my thoughts much more clear.
Like anything helping with cerebral palsy it took time to warm to the idea of wearing the shirt. The chiropractor continued to gently remind me to wear the shirt. He suggested scenarios for wearing the shirt. For whatever reason, the idea of wearing it throughout the normal day wasn’t working. It seemed I needed a purpose for wearing the Intelliskin. I agreed to give it a shot while playing golf. After a couple rounds and a trip to the driving range, I found the shirt to be uncomfortable during my golf game, it was changing the swing I had worked for years to develop and I wasn’t making good contact. After the results with my golf game, I tried wearing it while working out. The Intelliskin shirt worked superbly while working out. It helps keep my upper body in alignment and the motor movements much more fluid. The stability provided from the shirt also gives me piece of mind. With the upper body in alignment, I’m confident we are strengthening the corrects muscles in the correct way. Without wearing the shirt, I become more susceptible to injury. Cerebral palsy can cause instability during any physical activity, requiring the unintended use of muscles, which shouldn’t be involved in the movement. The unintended muscle movement can cause injury, leading to an inability to exercise.
Whether it is exercising or seeing a chiropractor, I’m in a constant search for ways to improve my symptoms from cerebral palsy. Many times I baulk when first coming upon something new that helps. It can give a false sense of hope there is something magical to take away CP from my life. I’ve accepted with age the likelihood of being “cured” is minimal at best. So, when I come across things making me feel more like you, it can cause emotional discomfort. After accepting the Intelliskin shirt won’t magically take away cerebral palsy, but helps make things easier, I found my way of using it. I wear the shirt each time I work out, it helps my movements and helps strengthen the correct muscles to improve strength and stability. Wearing the shirt a few times a week also improves my thought process and attitude. It’s almost like my brain gets a break for a few hours each time I wear it. For me, it’s a magical shirt.