The Art of Hobbling

There's only so long you can spend getting upset and mourning the loss of your mobility, particularly if you need to be a rock to your loved ones. If you make the decision to carry on, then you must play your remaining cards to the best of your ability, or you stand to needlessly losing more by neglect caused by being occupied by anger, sadness and resentment, as much as I enjoy the perversely thrilling power of wrath crackling through me like Force Lightning.

It is time for me to move on from the lost prospect of power-walking to the Art of Hobbling. Hobbling, I have found is harder than you might think. It requires a degree of co-ordination and awareness that would challenge a world class tennis player, because there are so many variables affecting your ability to hobble that keep shifting.

The objective of a hobble is to cover the maximum possible distance in the minimum possible time with the minimum level of pain. The problem is that your crumbling cartilage, tight hip capsule and overactive nerve network are constantly shifting in intensity, so before you even get up, you need strategies in place to calm them as much as possible. Then you are ready to work on your hobbling technique.

I'm still at the beginning of this journey of perfecting the hobble, which is very much an individual struggle because your body, arthritic condition and other miscellaneous circumstances are unique to you, and all that is constantly shifting under your feet!

Here's some things I've learned so far:

  1. Keep the walking stick for outdoors. Indoors there are plenty of supports to hold on to whilst hobbling and you will only end up with the stick in a totally inconvenient place. Keep it where the hat coat and shoes live then you always know where it is and have it handy for the exterior where you really need it.
  2. For me, contrary to the received wisdom, having the walking stick on the opposite side just doesn't work for me. This is perhaps because I need the weight off my hip rather than my leg. However the price is extra load on your right shoulder which is now I must admit a tad sore! I'm still working on the correct wielding of the stick for maximum effectiveness without new injuries to other parts.
  3. SHORT STEPS! After a lifetime of bold striding, this has taken some concentration! Sort strides seem to put less grind on the hip. I'm still working on the exact hobbling pattern, but it will be made of short steps.
  4. On getting to your feet, make it a slow flowing movement that ends up with the weight on the left leg. Now streeettcchh the right leg as far as you can get it before GENTLY taking some weight off the left leg. You are now ready to hobble with the left leg doing the work of pulling you forward and the right simply catching up.
  5. Even with the best hobble, the clock is ticking! My hip will only endure so long before seriously complaining. I reckon after 20 minutes serious hobbling, you're pushing it!
  6. Often after some initial painful hobbling, the hip will apparently settle and it becomes easier to hobble for around 15 minutes.

...I shall go on in my journey of discovery to perfect the optimum hobble. It will improve mobility and keep my mind from unhelpful dark places.


  • Jona
    Jona Member Posts: 323
  • Jona
    Jona Member Posts: 323
  • stickywicket
    stickywicket Member Posts: 26,271

    I wish your first paragraph was writ large on every page here. It's so true. We stilll have the power to make our lives better or worse despite the arthritis and I'm sure, with your attitude, yours will be better. Arthritis is a pain - many pains - but it has valuable stuff to teach us if we allow it to. And I'm sure you will.

    I think I would disagree, though, with your definition of a hobble (The objective of a hobble is to cover the maximum possible distance in the minimum possible time with the minimum level of pain.) but I guess I'm just further down the wavy line. I'd say the purpose of a hóbble is simply to get there any which way, and one valuable, difficult lesson I've leaned over the years is that the greater the hobble, the less wine should be consumed. Cruel but true.

    Now, the stick. I write as one whose hands can't hold one and whose feet stick out so much they trip over the stick if I try (Don't fret. Mine's very longstanding rheumatoid) but I'm good at the theory. The theory of which hand to use is there for a good reason as you're just discovering. The theory is that the stick is not for leaning on: it's to enable you to walk as upright and naturally as possible because otherwise you will create lots of other problems in other bits of you and, eventually, you will mind and wish you hadn''t. Try also not to just bring that leg up to the other. Try to take it through the full step range for exactly the same reason. Do hip exercises to encourage it. And, please believe me, this is one of my many favourite failures. 

    Finally, do 'be a rock to your loved ones' but also allow them in to be rocks to you. Thou shalt not bang on about pain all the time or re-distribute it with an angry word here or a sideswipe there but, equally, thou shalt not shut them out of what is an increasing part of your life as that is equally hurtful. 

    As I said, I'm good at the theory.

    "The deeper sorrow carves into your being the more joy you can contain." Kahlil Gibran
  • Lilymary
    Lilymary Member Posts: 1,318

    @Damned69 , your posts have put me in the morally uncomfortable position of enjoying reading someone’s descriptions of physical suffering. But how well you encapsulate the daily struggle to simply walk, all of which I can totally relate to. Might I add a few more tips?

    1. when crossing roads without the cover of zebras, pelicans, Boy Scouts or policemen holding up the traffic, ensure that oncoming vehicles are a mere speck in the distance and travelling as slowly as you are.
    2. Desist, at all times, from even considering “putting on a spurt”. The first sudden placing of the duff leg in front of t’other will send 40,000 volts of pain through your body radiating from your wrecked hip to all extremities, and result in an admirable St Vitus dance that would bring the entire panel of judges on Strictly to their feet in admiration. I defy Bruno to imitate it. I suspect this is what inspired the Python team in The Ministry of Silly Walks
    3. when tiring of going upstairs raising only the good leg and trailing its moaning brother behind, I found leaning on the handrail at an angle of approx 60 degrees would encourage the duff leg to join in. This is best not performed in front of an audience, or when carrying a mug of tea
    4. Going downstairs, on the other hand, requires the deftness of touch of a burglar trying not to wake the entire household on those pesky creaky stairs
    5. i found my mother’s wheelchair, with mum on board, made an excellent walking aid, so she was surprised and delighted to get a few extra outings. Sans wheelchair, it was hard to decide whose hobble was the best, despite the 30 year age difference.
    6. Why don’t they make toilets with ejector seats to help lift us off them? Oh, no, wait... 😱😳
    7. and lastly, one for you to look forward to, your first paces with a shiny new hip, which feels like you’re trying to balance on top of a steel plate which is balanced on a huge marble.... on ice.