If you’ve ever struggled to get your socks and shoes on with back pain / sciatica, this is for you. If you haven’t been in this situation, think yourself lucky; it may seem funny, but I can assure you it isn’t. As an Edinburgh osteopath specialising in lower back pain and sciatica, I know this is a very common problem. We also have a lower back pain online course.
When you’ve already struggled just to get out of bed. You couldn’t sit on the toilet (because your back’s too sore). Bending over the sink to wash the sleep out of your eyes is impossible, and then it dawns on you that the normally simple task of putting your socks on seems to have become one of Herculean proportions, requiring the flexibility of a Yogi and the determination of a very determined two year old – it isn’t funny.
Starting to get socks and shoes on – socks first
Where to begin getting your socks and shoes on? Socks first obviously. Is sitting and bending forward even an option? Probably not, so I tend to skip straight to a trial of standing. For this you’ll need a wall to lean against. Hold the sock in one hand, leaning the shoulder on the painful side against the wall (assuming one side is sorer than the other).
Lifting your leg
Lift the inside leg up, bending at the knee and turning the hip out so that the foot crosses over the other knee. Now rest here for a “wee breather”. Having achieved this, stoop forward. (If you tried to stoop forward while bending the knee up and this induced a stabbing pain across your lower back, try to stick more closely to instructions in future).
Stoop and lassoo
If you can stoop low enough, using the outside hand, try to lasso the sock over your toes. It does help if you’ve pre-stretched the neck of the sock. It may take several attempts and you may need to do the sort of panting labouring women do just before the big push. Now gently pull the sock over the back of your heel. Do not lower your foot to the ground until you’ve got the sock into a position you’re happy with. Now repeat on the other side – this may not be as easy. 🙂 Yay, you are half-way to getting your socks and shoes on.
Or call for help…
If the standing lasso isn’t working for you (too many tears and swear words without any real progress, and a conviction that even labour can’t possibly be this painful), then it’s back to bed for you. If you’re lucky enough to find a loved one still lazing around in bed, swallow your pride and wake him/her up to ask for assistance. He/she – while annoyed at being woken – will be compensated by having a laugh at your dilemma.
The lying-down option
If you can’t find help, then gently lower yourself back onto the bed – on your back or side, whichever is easier. In this position repeat the steps attempted in the standing lasso. If the lying lasso is still beyond you then you are going out without socks today. It’s a cruel world.
Completing the socks and shoes on task – shoes
Next, shoes. If you think slip-ons are only for cheesy television stars, or kids who can’t or won’t tie their laces, you’ve another hurdle ahead of you. You could opt for slippers, and I have seen some patients carry this off with an impressive degree of Je ne sais quoi, however it’s more likely to shout dementia and nursing home.
Get the shoe up to your level to loosen the laces before putting (dropping) it down by your foot. Ikea do a great long-handled shoe horn, and if you haven’t got one yet, you may want to drop hints for your Christmas list. Again, in the absence of a glamorous assistant, it would help if you can sit down at this point. Lacing shoes is greatly helped if (when sitting) you turn one foot onto its outside edge, and place the other one on the top edge of that one. This will bring it closer to you so that you can tie the laces. An alternative is putting your foot up on a piece of furniture and stooping forward. Or resorting to the lying down version, but I’ve never found that as helpful as it is for the socks.
Frankly, if I can’t lace my shoes up – I’m not going to work. At times I have had to warm up for it, and certainly recommend you do the same. Trying to get shoes or socks on first thing in the morning is a recipe for disaster and a lesson you’ll learn very quickly if you’re not willing to take my word for it. I’ve known others comment that they have to wait for their painkillers to kick in before they’ll attempt the socks in the morning. If you’re struggling with socks on a frequent basis (mine only lasted a week), I strongly recommend our online course! Or you could try George’s device (in the picture above!). Let me know how you get on.