Traditional mobility devices, canes, crutches, walking sticks and walkers let you maintain balance. What they don't do is maintain the body's alignment or allow you to engage your core muscles. The longer you use them the more bent over you become because you're forcing your body to move in ways it was never designed for.
My training is in applied human biomechanics. The study of motion, force, momentum, balance, and the internal and external forces of gravitation as it relates to movement, motion and the body's alignment. I am a Black Belt in the martial arts styles of Kung Fu, WuShu and Escrima.
I began my martial arts and Qigong training in my twenties with Sifu K and Master Wong and my Defendo training with Bill Underwood at the age of twelve.
In January of 2013 I was training for my 2nd Degree Black Belt in Wushu when a SUV crashed into the driver's side door of my car. Over the next two years I would undergo multiple surgeries and procedures followed by eight long post-op and recovery periods before relearning how to walk.
I was continually told by my surgeons that I had unreasonable and unrealistic expectations regarding my long-term prognosis. What almost everyone including my physicians, surgeons and physical therapists didn't understand was that I didn't believe, nor did I expect my surgeries, procedures, and PT to return my broken, twisted, disabled body to the way it was before the accident. I expected my surgeries and procedures to give me an opportunity to use my martial arts and Qigong training to rebuild the physical foundation needed to regain my body's alignment.
In martial arts there is always a Plan. That Plan is what allows you to start as a White Belt and become a Black Belt. I understood the day I started relearning how to walk that it didn't matter how strong I once was or what I could do up until the day of the accident. What mattered was how I was going to use my training to rebuild my body's upright posture, stability and alignment.
When I couldn't find a cane that moved with the body on the outside of the leg helping maintain the body's upright posture and alignment. That had a cane foot that was able to move, pivot and maintain balance from the back of the cane foot to the front of the cane foot like a foot when walking forward, backward and turning I built a cane with a cane foot that would. Letting me reach and exceed all my unreasonable and unrealistic expectations.
In martial arts, dance, and most competitive sports you're taught that the body needs to maintain alignment for the quality of the quantity of what you practice to keep improving, and for you to progress. You practice something until you think you know it, then you keep refining and practicing it until it knows you. When what you're practicing flows out of you without thinking you've developed procedural memory that is automatic and can connect your movement and motion and put flow in your go that maintains your body's alignment and stability when moving.
The day I started relearning how to walk I began a monthly movement and motion journal that I now teach other people who use The 3rd Foot Cane how to do to chart their progress. The monthly movement and motion journal helped me to chart my progress and understand how to adapt the standing, walking and sitting exercises and stretches that I created based on my martial arts and Qigong training. Every exercise I did at home and at PT was done on both sides of my body and not just the injured side. Because of my training inside the Dojo I understood that the two sides of my body needed to be rehabbed together from the weakest point for my body to regain stable, balanced movement, motion and the alignment of my twisted, damaged spine. I didn't have a weak side and a strong side like I was continuously told. I had an underloaded injured side and an overloaded side. My overloaded uninjured side was becoming weaker and weaker from being continuously overloaded and my underloaded injured side was stopping the two sides of my body from working together to connect my movement and motion and engage my core muscles that could regain and maintain my body's alignment as I walked.
Inside the Dojo there is no such thing as a weak side and a strong side and every exercise is done on both sides of your body allowing you to generate stable, balanced, movement and motion that engages and strengthens your core muscles as you move.
Procedural memory is a form of muscle memory from which the neural pathways in our brain that make motor behavior automatic are formed. When movement is restricted, changed or altered for a continuous length of time without interruption the neural pathways that make motor behavior automatic are changed. To quote Dr. Davis, an orthopedic surgeon, "Use it or lose it." In other words, practice, good or bad makes permanent. You are the way you walk! If you walk bent over a cane, crutch or walker you will become more and more bent over with time because you're failing to maintain the alignment of the spine and the rest of the body. If you walk upright and stay upright you maintain alignment and engage your core muscles. You become more upright and stable with time because you're moving your body the way it was designed to move.
My surgeon made sure that my left leg was straight and the same length as my right leg when he finished my leg surgery. During the next three and a half months my left leg was bent, locked in a brace with my foot off the ground non weight bearing. The crutches continuously misaligned, positioned and forced my leg and the rest of healing body to move in ways it was never designed for. The muscles between my hip and knee lengthened and the ones between my knee and foot shortened including my Achilles tendon.
I started relearning how to walk without crutches on April 1st, of 2015. My left leg was bent, twisted and an inch longer than my right, but because my Achilles’ tendon had shortened from being off the ground for three and a half months my left heel didn't touch the ground when I stood or walked. I had a different length step, stride, and gait on each side of my body. This was not a result of my car accident, but the result of the mobility devices that failed to keep my healing body aligned and moving the way it was designed to move. I developed drop foot from my foot being off the ground and from the nerve damage in my leg from the car accident. The front of my left foot didn't bend normally and there were places on the outside edge of my left foot that I couldn’t feel when I walked and when I was on the stairs.
After all of my surgeries and procedures I would complain to my physician husband daily that the crutches, leg brace, arm slings and other mobility devices were bankrupting the opportunity that my surgeons had given me by forcing my healing body to be continuously misaligned, moved and positioned in ways it was never designed for to maintain alignment or engage my core muscles. I would tell my husband almost nightly how your underarms and the top of the inside of your arms were designed to stay next to your sides when you walked and turned to maintain your body's alignment. That your arms and hands were not designed to be extended away from your body when walking without creating injury and physical disability throughout your entire body. That traditional crutch and cane feet made a poor foot substitute. That they didn’t have the same proportions as the foot and couldn't support or maintain balance, upright posture, with the head aligned and centered over the body like a foot. That the crutches and other mobility devices were creating injury and secondary physical disability with each step that I or anyone else took.
When I briefly used traditional canes and walking sticks after I started relearning how to walk, I would complain to my husband that traditional cane and walking stick feet make a poor foot substitute. That you can't extend your underarm or the top of your arm away from your body when walking to maintain balance and use a crutch, cane or walking stick handle to maintain balance without your spine losing its alignment, your head becoming positioned in front of the rest of your body. With your walking stride becoming too short for your feet to contact the ground from heel to toe and engage your core muscles. That no one had ever developed, maintained or regained an upright, stable walking gait by continuously forcing their body to be misaligned and moved in the ways that traditional canes, crutches, walking sticks and walkers force the body to be aligned, moved and positioned.
When I told my husband after I started walking that my surgeon had told me that I would never walk upright or normally again. He asked me what I had said to him? I told him that I said, I wasn't born walking and I wasn't born a Black Belt. My husband said you know more human biomechanics then I do and I'm a physician. Stop complaining about the crutches, canes, walkers and walking sticks and use your knowledge of human biomechanics to build a new kind of mobility devices. Ones that move with the body and can maintain the spine's natural alignment and the stability of the body. That can help you and other people regain, maintain or develop an upright, stable walking gait.
Inventing a better cane
I started designing the 3rd Foot Cane and The 3rd Foot Crutch foot by visualizing how to reset and rebalance an injured or disabled body using a cane or crutch foot that moved with the body on the outside of the leg and could act as a foot substitute. Unlike all other cane, walking stick and crutches that use the handle to maintain balance with the arm extended away from the side I designed my cane and crutch foot with the same proportions and anatomical ridges on the bottom of cane and crutch foot as the human foot. Allowing my cane and crutch foot to maintain and support balance, stability and upright posture from the back of the cane and crutch foot to the front of the cane or crutch foot like a foot.
After using canes and walking sticks that had straight shafts or that were curved at the top or ones that didn't move at the same angle as the leg when walking with a tip or tips or prongs and odd shaped flat feet I built my cane and crutch shaft to maintain the same angle as the leg when walking and use the cane foot to maintain and support balance, stability and upright posture when walking forward, backward and turning
The theory behind traditional canes, crutches and walking sticks or canes with a shaft that is curved at the top or that swings is that you use your arm or arms to extended your body's base of support and use a cane, crutch or walking stick handle to maintain balance. The only problem with that theory is that your arms are not designed to extend your body's base of support and carry your body's weight to maintain balance your feet are. A traditional cane, crutch and walking stick tip or 3 or 4 tips or ones with a handle that maintains the body's balance make a poor foot substitute. Because of the way they force the body to be continuously misaligned and moved when walking you're unable to maintain or regain your spines natural alignment or an upright, balanced, heel to toe walking gait that engages and strengthen the core muscles responsible for the body's upright posture, balance and stability.
The 3rd Foot Cane allowed me to grow more upright and stronger month after month. I was able to reverse the kyphosis that I had developed from using crutches. After the first year I redeveloped feeling along the outside edge of my foot with drop foot caused by the nerve damage done to my leg in the car accident and from using crutches with my foot non-weight bearing off the ground for three and a half months. My toes stopped rolling under when I walked and became able to bend normally again because of my daily foot exercises using the cane foot together with my foot. My walking became less awkward and I became more stable and upright when walking forward, backward and turning. I kept adapting the series of core strengthening exercises and stretches that I created which allowed my broken, twisted disabled body to slowly become upright, more stable and less painful. After the first year I was able to regain a balanced step, and a long enough walking stride to keep my underarms and the top of the inside of my arms next to my side when walking forward, backward and turning without using the cane. I stopped having pain in my damaged spine and in the muscles in my left leg.
The series of standing heel to toe foot exercises using The 3rd Foot Cane that I created were based on martial arts and Qigong exercises that I learned inside the Dojo. The series of sitting and standing exercises and slow stretches that engage and strengthen the leg and core muscles between the neck and waist and in between the shoulders I now teach to people who use The 3rd Foot Cane throughout the world.
I walk normally today and without a cane despite the prognosis I was given after my car accident because of great surgeons and the 3rd Foot Cane that allowed me and now thousands of other like me to regain an upright, stable, heel to toe walking gait that maintains the body's alignment and allows the body to move the way it was designed to be moved when walking.
The 3rd foot Cane is Patented in United States, Canada and China. It was chosen by The West Coast Consortium For Technology And Innovation As A 2020 Portfolio Member and is now being sold Worldwide.
Ardra Shepard included the 3rd Foot Cane to be part of her 2023 Mobility Aids 101: How To Cope, What To Get and to be part of her 2021 Gift Guide for People With MS.
Kent Jones that_guy_with_ms, uses The 3rd Foot Cane. You can see his Customer videos on the Homepage of him using The 3rd Foot Cane and follow his progress after using The 3rd Foot Cane for over 2 years in the second video.
In 2021 I was included in Think and Zoom Future of Disability — Global list of Disabled Innovators.
The Patented Fabric Topped 3rd Foot Crutch that I invented is sold out.
In January and February of 2019, the first two United States Utility Patents were issued. In April of 2020 the US Design Patent for The 3rd Foot Cane and Crutch foot was issued. On November 12, 2019 The Aligned As Designed Walker/Rollator Patent was issued. The Aligned As Designed US Crutch Utility Patent was issued on June 1st of 2021. The Aligned As Designed 3rd Foot Cane Canadian Utility Patent was issued on November 3rd, of 2020. The Aligned As Designed 3rd Foot Cane China Utility Cane Patent was issued in 2022.
Aligned As Designed has more Patents and Trademarks and others pending in the United States and abroad that keep the body Aligned as Designed.