25 Minutes on the Treadmill Yesterday…Boo Yah

Title pretty much says it all. I did 25 minutes on the treadmill yesterday, holding on with one hand, sometimes two when I was tired, and survived. Varied incline from 1.5-3.0 I think, and the speed from 1.4-2.0. Wore my Xero barefoot shoes in order to strengthen my feet.

0.75 miles. Yep. That’s the farthest I’ve walked during an exercise session in over a year, I believe. 

During the walk, I could feel a muscle deep in my upper leg try to turn on and support my weight. It’s difficult to describe. My guess (and I could be way off here) is that something in my deep longitudinal system is trying to work itself out.

This is the hardest I’ve physically been able to work out in in a long time. Sweated and huffed and puffed like I was doing a 5k. Afterwards, my body felt like I’d run a 5k, right down to the nausea that hit me about an hour afterwards. I’ve missed that post 5k nausea, oddly enough. It passed with food.

Good times.

My muscles calmed down by evening time after I did some electric massager tissue work, PEMF mat, eggs, super smoothie and trail mix, and the natural movements of making dinner.

Today, I’m a little achy (especially in my suspected deep longitudinal system), but it could be way worse. My gait feels a little better. My steps is a little longer. That moment of push off with my back left foot is actually trying to happen as I walk.

p.s. I’ve been practicing walking into restaurants, church, etc holding my cane at my side and not leaning on it.

Updates and Progress: November 2, 2018 – January 5, 2018

Much progress has been made. While I’m still on a cane, I can foresee a time in the (hopefully) near future where I can get rid of this thing. A few milestones over the last few months:

  • End of September 2018, on Pennsylvania trip: last time I regularly used the crutches (one crutch, to be exact). Used the cane a bit on that trip. Struggled when using the cane outside of the condo.
  • End of September 2018: Upon returning from that trip, I noticed I had more space in my left hip. Meaning, I could stand and lean to left, and my body let me. This was HUGE. It really changed my attitude about my recovery. I began to tentatively hope that maybe I could get better.
  • Started walking with exclusively the cane in October 2018
  • December 5, 2018: Had a booster PRP shot from my stem cell doctor. He did an ultrasound before the procedure and got giddy at the amount of cartilage that had regrown in my hip thus far. He said, “It almost looks like a normal hip.” Woot! In my mind, this confirms much of my current pain and disfunction comes from my muscles.
  • Sometime end of December 2018: I stopped holding onto walls, counters as I moved around the house (hadn’t realized I’d been doing this. When I did, I decided it was time to stop). This resulted in an increase in strength within a couple days. Wow.
  • Stopped going to gym for most of December 2018. Things got busy, and I also found myself in a weird “in-between” stage where I was doing a bunch of muscle activation movements at home, outside of the pool and hot tub, re-acclimating my body to gravity.

As of December 31, 2018, I’ve started walking on the treadmill at the gym for 15-20 minutes, using speeds ranging from 1-1.8 for far, at various levels of incline. (This is serious progress. In March 2018 at the height of my pain, I could only do 0.6? 0.7? for 10-15 minutes, holding onto both side of the treadmill for dear life, and it was excruciating).  Currently, I hold onto both side sometimes, but much of the time one side, and vary my steps in length, and also where my feet fall in relation to my midline. Sometimes I’ll pretend I’m walking a tightrope (while holding onto both sides), and other times I’ll strive to carefully have my feet fall across the midline. This is the range of motion that’s the toughest for my body and muscles, so it stands to reason that I should (again, carefully) practice it.

Also, I’m working on activating and strengthening my muscles with my legs closer together in the standing position. Super tough. I wish I wouldn’t have let that range of motion go, but alas. You live and you learn. Currently, with my feet as close to each other as possible, I’ll hinge at the waist, often using our kitchen peninsula for support.

The concept of standing “in” my left hip, and evening out my legs

Also, I’ve noticed like 2-3 days ago that I don’t stand “inside my left hip” as much as my right. I still tend to stand with more weight on my right hip, with my hip protruding out to the right. I’m working on carefully shifting my weight into my left hip and letting my muscles (and ligaments, tendons, etc) learn how that feels. What’s interesting is that if I move into my left hip enough, my legs even out/almost even out before my very eyes.

The first night I did this, something in my inside hip (upper groin area) wanted to lock up on me with what I’ve come to call “blue lightning” pain. I remember encountering this back in February/March 2018, when I had a hint of feeling better, but let that pain scare me away. I remember after that spending weeks/months on the couch, and quickly went downhill. Fast forward to today, and I’m determined NOT to let that happen. This pain is trying to tell me something. Maybe I pushed things to far, although my movements were slow and careful. Or maybe it’s a temporary, inevitable pain that comes from soft tissue that’s complaining but not accustomed to moving that way. I’ve encountered different kinds of pain over the last few months that proved to be inevitable and temporary, but would go away over time as long as I gently encouraged my body to learn the movement. Funny, I don’t so easily get frightened anymore by different kinds of pain. Same with the popping and cracking I’ll get with specific movements, which I’ve come to learn means the muscle is weak and doesn’t know how to lengthen and/or shorten. With time and careful, slow activation movements, the popping, cracking, and pain usually goes away.

Yep, daily life hurts m@therf@cker, but I’m still here.

Currently, I’m working on sorting out this blue lightening pain. I’ll do gentle hip Hanna Somatic movements while sitting and laying throughout the day to encourage my hip to NOT lock up. I’ll also gently, slowly repeat the movements that caused the pain, while working on activating the muscles involved in the movement so my body learns how to handle it

Current regimen:

  • I’m eating more protein than I ever have before. Trying to get close to my body weight since I’ve got muscle to build, especially in my left leg, with its semi-withered hamstrings, quads, and who knows what else.
  • Trying to walk for 20 minutes on treadmill 6 days a week. Surprisingly, I’ve done 5 days in a row so far, and I feel improvement. My body’s ability to recover is improving. Beautiful.
  • Considering incorporating 5-10 minutes of backwards walking and evaluating how my body responds. Planning on trying the first session at home.
  • Core work: Hanging from pullup bar and lifting legs (super tough), laying and lifting leg to activate and strengthen psoas (tough, but I’m able to get through almost 3 sets of 7. I’ve noticed just about the day after I started doing this, it was easier to get to lift my left leg to get into the car, and in and out of bed. Interesting). I’m not doing these every day yet, though I know I should be. More like every other day as of a week or so ago. Also doing sit ups laying down with legs straight out.
  • Quad work: kneeling hip hinges (hip thrusts), which really, really tire out my quads
  • External hamstring work: Standing in forward lunge position on wood block
  • Calf stretch work: utilizing wood block in kitchen
  • Generally learning to stand with my legs closer together.
  • Also learning to put weight on each tip toe of each foot. Tough. But the more I do it, the less general pain I have.
  • Considering adding back in glute bridges, hip thrusts…
  • Light rebounding work in various positions: Me likey. Hoping it helps me recover some of my lost “spring” in my step. Currently I walk like a lopsided, drunken elephant.
  • Tissue work: electric massager, PEMF mat just about every day (these two work pretty well together), working on incorporating the hot tub more again
  • Consider an evening floor routine: push ups, shoulder pushups, plank, quadruped rocking, downward dog, upward dog, kneeling hip hinges (I like this guy’s form with your feet together: https://mikereinold.com/kneeling-hip-thrust/). Finish with sitting cross-legged.
  • Considering: Assisted squats? (as in, holding onto something and going down into as deep a squat as I comfortably can).

Note to self: I think I have supination with external rotation of the knee, based on this article: https://www.monikavolkmar.com/2017/04/25/the-week-of-externally-rotated-knees/

As part of the solution, try this Aim (Anatomy in Motion) stuff for walking:

http://:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0QHHs9Ye9AA&index=9&list=PLPYYXiSTPdCKOcF11BcM7k73Jd4ry2PLQ

: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J_hA28ovDRw

Consider: https://www.findingcentre.co.uk/wakeyourbodyup/

 

November 2018 (and into the Winter!) Initial Forecast

Still seeing improvement. Limping a bit less. Pain is a bit less, thank God. Still a ways to go. Can now stand on left (weak) side for a few seconds. Have also discovered I can just barely walk upright and tall, using my cane, and can pull the left side of my pelvis into posterior tilt with my butt and hamstring muscles…if feels like it anyway. There’s definitely more extension going on back there.

I’ve had to work hard for this progress. The progression of healing is not linear in this case. Sometimes I push it so hard I’m sore the next day, and I actually don’t like that. Some of it is unavoidable yes, but it temporarily makes me feel like I’m moving backwards. The soreness isn’t like regular DOMS. It feels like back when I got the original injury sometimes. Ugh.

Alas. Overall, progress is definitely being made. Now that it’s November, I’d like to build in a habit of movement over the winter. The last thing I want is to be sedentary and depressed like last winter.

Here’s what I’m considering:

To introduce currently (November 2018):

  • Continue to work at the computer standing up, as you have been the last month or two. This involves constantly moving and shifting my weight, and doing small exercises. Don’t forget to throw in a session of “belt work” around the knees as well.
  • Work on concept of resting squats (with much assistance)
  • Lying on stomach leg raises (extension)
  • Glute Bridges
  • Hip hinging and squatting in everyday life
  • Resting squat in hot tub at gym
  • Balancing hip muscles in sitting position, partial 90/90
  • Mobility work on ankles with board, wall exercises
  • PEMF therapy 1-2 times a day
  • JUST DISCOVERED I can lay on back and do a straight leg lift. This has felt next to impossible in the past. I can knock out 4-5 medium height leg lifts now. PRAISE GOD!). Now I’ll have to grease the groove with these daily, while I lay on couch at night.)
  • Not able to do side lying leg lifts yet, so let’s try the standing version with band attached to a table

Working up to:

  • Perfect form squats
  • Perfect form Romanian Deadlifts
  • Perfect form rotational lunges

Even further down the line:

  • Perfect form squats with barbells
  • Perfect form Romanian Deadlifts with barbells
  • Perfect form rotational lunges with barbells
  • Push ups (full body health)
  • Pull ups? (Way down the line, lol. Full body health!)

Hamstrings, oh hamstrings…I think you’re more important than I realized

As I briefly mentioned in my previous post about my frustration co-existing with my obvious progress, I think strengthening my left hamstrings will help pull that side of my pelvis back into a more normal position.

This morning my little medial hamstrings on my left side are notably, slightly sore, and in a good way. That is so cool. It means they are activating, and can now be strengthened. Seeing as they’ve visibly atrophied (they look and feel so floppy compared to the other side), it’s super exciting to know they are turned on and I can strengthen them. What did I do yesterday to make them sore? I did three sets of 8-10 glute bridges twice total, and the PRI 90-90 exercise sitting in a chair, with the EMS unit on my medial hamstrings.

Evidence for this line of thinking:

The Postural Restoration Institute (PRI) mentions one of the first things generally done is using the hamstrings to pull the left pelvis back.

I even had a knowledgable physical therapist I highly respect tell me single leg romanian deadlifts would help calm down my painful adductors.

And looking back over this year and a half of hell, the weaker that hamstring got, the worse my pain became. At my most painful point in March 2018, if I was laying on my stomach and tried to use my hamstring to lift my foot off the ground, I could barely do it. At the time, I didn’t give it a ton of thought because, frankly, I was overwhelmed and in one of the deepest depressions of my life. Alas.

The more I used walking aids, particularly both forearm crutches, the weaker my hamstrings seemed to get. And the more my pain increased.

This interesting article from Swiss Physio has some interesting points that hit home for me:

“Throughout the stance phase the hamstrings act to stabilise the pelvic girdle and propel the body, and therefore the centre of mass, forward. The faster the walking pace the more muscular activity is needed to maintain stability…

Any weakness may result in an anterior pelvic tilt and thereby an excessive lumbar lordosis, especially if the gluteus maximus is weak as well.”

Yep, that’s me, including the anterior pelvic tilt I go into when placing weight on my left side. So it stands to reason that strengthening my hamstrings (and glutes) will help naturally correct that.

And this interesting statement is from https://fulltorquefitness.com/?p=262, and highlights the importance of the Biceps Femoris (one on of the hamstring muscles) in hip stabilization and the SI joint:

“Together these muscles [the deep longitudinal muscle slings] work as stabilizers of the hips and core. This is mainly seen as we walk, these muscles absorb energy from the ground and transfer it up the body. Where the energy being set up will dissipate before reaching the head if the core is acting properly.

The Biceps Femoris has a special value in the stabilization of the hips. As the Biceps Femoris is contracted the sacrotuberous ligament is pulled down with it. This forces closure of the Sacroiliac Joint (SI Joint).”

Now, as I take steps to strengthen my hamstring, I notice I’m in less pain and feel sturdier on my feet. I’m mentally kicking myself a bit. I really, really wish I hadn’t let the muscle wither away to this point. Oh well…

Interesting observation: after doing two sets of 3 glute bridges last night, I was to the point of exhaustion. When I got up off the floor, I could literally, barely walk. In that moment, it provided me the opportunity to momentarily observe my gait when my glute and hamstring muscles were exhausted. In a way, it was really interesting, because it provided immediate evidence that my hamstrings and glutes are very, very important. It allowed me to hypothesize that therefore strengthening these same muscles should allow me to walk better. That’s encouraging.

It’s a gateway to accessing other areas of dysfunction

Of course I understand that activating and strengthening my hamstrings won’t fix everything, because my situation is complex. However, I strongly feel it is very, very, important because it will (1) directly influence how I walk and reduce my pain levels and (2) allow me access to other areas of my body that need straightening out and progress to more complex exercises that straighten me out as a whole, especially as the left side of my pelvis moves back into a more normal position. It’ll be neat when I can stand on one leg, hip hinge better, do single leg Romanian Deadlifts, single leg glute bridges, squats, and even walking with a more normal gait. These complex movement address other muscles in my body that need balancing.

Training thoughts moving forward 

  • I think I’ll try switching focus to fast twitch fibers for a bit with my EMS unit.  Apparently, hamstrings are primarily composed of fast twitch fibers. I didn’t realize that. Doggonit.
  • Eccentric training where I can.
  • Try different foot positions to target different hamstring muscles (neutral, outward, or inward)
  • Try dorsiflexing and plantar flexing to target different hamstring muscles.
  • Eat more protein.

 

*Did some research from Strength Sensei)

Impatient, Frustrated, Discouraged…And Yet Improving

Life seems to be all about paradoxes and contradictions. I’m no exception, apparently. I’m impatient and frustrated, and yet improving. It’s more important now more than ever that I record my improvements, or else they’ll slip by me unnoticed as I compare myself to other people.

Here are my latest improvements:

  • I have increased internal rotation. Notably. Got down on my knees today, and was able to rotate my left foot out/left knee in farther than I have in a long time (a year?). I can actually get my foot in line with me knee, whereas before my foot was inside the knee when looking down, as in stuck in external rotation. Dare I say it, but now I think I can even get a little actual internal rotation. This is huge. Every bit of internal rotation I get, the more access I have to my glute muscles and medial hamstrings. And how have I achieved this improvement? Several things. Reverse clams. Sitting, moving my legs as close to internal rotation as possible, and activating the muscles (adductors, hamstrings, glutes) in that position by pressing my foot in different directions.

 

  • Glute bridges actually produce a burn in my glutes and hamstrings. It’s been ages since this exercise produced a burn anywhere other than my right lower back (yes, you read that correctly…my lower back). Seems like now the correct muscles are being activated. And while some may say only my glutes should be activating…oh well. My left hamstrings have visibly withered away, so they need MASSIVE work. I hypothesize that strengthening my hamstrings will help pull the left side of my pelvis back into position (I think it’s rotated forward at the moment.) I’ll take activation of both muscle groups for now, thank you very much. This is HUGE. Now I can do this exercise every day, or as much as I my body can take.

 

  • I’m increasingly using no aid walking around the house. This presents a huge paradox for me. Out in the world, I alternate between one crutch and a cane mostly. Once and a while (rarely), no aid. While this is overall an improvement, it making me work harder than ever. This makes life feel twice as hard as it used to be when I was on two crutches, because then I could simply lean on the crutches. Walking with fewer aids is hard work, and when life gets hard, I get discouraged. Nevertheless, me using less aids is an improvement. I need to remember this, even as I struggle to get accustomed to fewer walking aids. Sometimes I miss using two crutches, even though I think it made my lower body weaker overall.

 

  • My right, less symptomatic hip is less achy than it used to be overall. I’ve noticed the improvement since making it a point to be on my feet around the house more (working on the computer, etc)

 

  • My standing stamina is improving. While walking 10 feet with no aids is still a struggle, standing on my feet and carefully shifting my weight is getting easier. I’m able to last around a couple hours (max) on my feet. This much, much better than the 20-30 minutes I used to last when I was at my worst months ago. At my worst months ago, I was terrified that I was one step away from a wheelchair. Not anymore, woot!

Thoughts

Has using walking aids hindered my progress? I wonder. Now that I’m doing corrective exercises, walking without any aid may have its benefits. My muscles may grow stronger. My muscle slings may learn to work together.

Everything is hard. Everything. Turning while standing. Maneuvering. 10x the effort. However, my theory is that my muscles will adjust to the increased load and will also respond quicker when I need them. If less movement this winter increased my pain and feebleness, it stands to reason that mindful, careful increased movement will help me get better.

My working theory at the moment:

Psoas firing and strengthened –> pectineus firing (and strengthened?) –> adductors release as a result, and maybe heal from the repetitive strain they’ve been under –> glute medius becomes uninhibited by adductors –> while I also do muscle sling work to get everything to work together (use walking poles?) –> gait restored

Observations

Working the anterior sling in the seated chair exercise seems to be helpful. Especially as I twist towards the painful side, I’m able to slightly lift my left leg off the floor. Still difficult, but a little easier. I also try to focus on kind of sucking the leg into the hip, in hopes that I’m activating my psoas and pectineus.

Working the anterior sling – laying, sitting, standing

There may be more to this anterior sling work than I expected.

New Observations

  • New chair exercise for anterior sling. Interesting is that I have to mindful give my side muscles an extra squeeze. After doing it off and on for an hour or so while working at my computer, when I got up and did the standing version of it, I was able to turn much farther to the left without my adductor locking up on me. This is something I’ve been struggling with for a while, so it’s interesting I had such drastic results in such a short time. Interesting. Also interesting is when I sat back down and lifted the left leg, it was significantly easier. This is something I really, really have struggled with this.
  • An interesting variation to the chair exercise for the anterior sling: while twisted to the left, I’ll activate my left glutes by pressing out into my hand(s).

Movements to make a video of:

  • Seated anterior sling movements from side to side

Movements to do for the rest of my life:

  • Seated anterior sling movements from side to side
  • Laying anterior + posterior sling movements – glute bridge when you can
  • Rotational lunges – for the lateral sling
  • Standing on one leg – for the lateral sling

More Progress

Wow. I did a photo shoot today that had me on my feet for nearly 2 hours (there were a few minutes were I sat down, but that’s it). I opted to use one crutch, even though I’m in the process of acclimating to a cane around the house and for short errands.

Speaking of which, I’m using the cane two weeks earlier than I planned.

Two weeks ago I did an hour long shoot on the crutch, and I remember being very tired afterwards. So much so, that when I flopped back into the car and drove home, my left hip muscles were literally stinging for a bit.

Not today. Huh.

After the shoot, I wasn’t very tired. Odd. Got home and went to the gym. Did some rotational lunge work on BOTH sides – modified on the weak left side – and then got on the treadmill for 15 minutes. Then got in the jacuzzi and did some one legged stands in the hip-deep water. Did some other adductor and abductor activation work.

Got out. Had some immediate tiredness, but it was gone by the time I got to Qdoba to pick up dinner.

I’m noticing my stride wanting to lengthen on the weak, left side, almost as if my glutes are wanting to propel me forward more.

I’ll take it. And even with all this, I struggle with impatience. It’s like, I’m seeing improvement, but it can come fast enough. Still, I’m very, very thankful to be moving in the right direction so far. This is precisely why I need to write this progress down, because otherwise I tend to lose perspective and despair that I’m not making progress at all…

…when, in fact, I am.

Future Plans – Sling Work

This is what I’m doing right now, and it’s working so far:

  • Continue with rotational lunges in jacuzzi and out (lateral sling.)
  • Stand on one foot more (lateral sling)
  • Reverse Clam Shells
  • Bridging (I want to get to single leg eventually)
  • *Practice laying leg extensions with arm movement (posterior sling) – Not doing this regularly. Need to.

Things I need to add:

  • My left adductors are really weak. So weak, it gets painful when I bring them towards the midline of my body. I’ve been avoiding this movement, but I think I need to face it. There may be the possibility that these weak adductors are what’s causing my abductors to be tight. It’s worth exploring. As it is, these weak adductors are also a weak part of that anterior oblique slings. I think that’s a large part of why my leg stays away from my body when I walk.
  • Be on feet more during day, but be strategic with it.
  • WATCH THE ORDER in which I do things. I should try activating the left adductors first (pressing leg into cane while standing does this), then activate abductors in that position by pressing into cane. Then practice putting weight on left leg.

List of slings from https://breakingmuscle.com/fitness/re-thinking-functional-movement-the-sling-systems-of-the-body:

“Anterior Oblique System: External and internal oblique with the opposing leg’s adductors and intervening anterior abdominal fascia.

Posterior Oblique System: The lat and opposing glute maximus.

Deep Longitudinal System: Erectors, the innervating fascia and biceps femoris.

Lateral System: Glute medius and minimus and the opposing adductors of the thigh”

Also, great article here: https://experiencelife.com/article/why-you-should-activate-your-sling-system/

 

 

Turns Out These Rotational Lunges Are Working My Lateral Slings Are Very Effective

The title says it all. Turns out my lateral muscle slings – adductors, same side glute minimus and glute medius were shut down on the left, weak side.

This past week, working on them has given me noticeable results. In fact, I’ve gone from one crutch to testing the waters with my cane.

Huh.

Also interesting is that standing on one leg also works the lateral sling. I’ve noticed an improvement in being able to do these. Can almost do it on my weak, left side.

Interesting.

A Rant: Trial, Error, Experimentation, and Taking Responsibility for Ourselves

The more I experiment with movements and apply deep thought to my situation, the more I’m coming to believe that, above all, I have to take responsibility for the health of my hips. It’s up to me to fix me. Not doctors. Not physical therapists. Not Google.

It’s so easy to visit a medical professional and expect them to rain down magical healing to my situation. Don’t get me wrong, medical professionals have their place, especially where some testing is concerned, but ultimately I’m responsible for figuring out what’s going on with my body. For me, this means taking time to put down the computer, get up, explore movements, and take careful note of how these movements make me feel and what muscles might be dysfunctional. Afterwards, I’ll often jump back on the computer to look for specific muscle groups or answers, but I CAN’T let Google do the thinking for me. I need to be naturally curious. Gone are the days where I’d lay on the couch and Google medical possibilities for hours on end but end up discouraged because I found no answers – or worse, too many horrible possibilities. Little did I realize I needed to get my butt up and explore movements for myself.

It’s way to easy to expect doctors, physical therapists, and other medical professionals to do the thinking for us. That’s a trap, because the truth of the matter is we’re just one of many, many patients they see. I’ve had physical therapists recommend cookie cutter exercises/treatments for weeks before realizing they’d forgot the actual details of my situation. I’ve had doctors see me for 15 minutes tops and then recommend hip replacements. I’ve had docs say, “It doesn’t matter what the cause is, you need a hip replacement.”

Really?

Not only that, but the way many of them (not all) are educated about the human body is simply not adequate. Many standard doctors don’t know enough about nutrition, or the way the entire body works together. Many are trained to accept common “facts” about the human body that are not facts at all, such as the “fact” that hip surgery will fix all your problems, or that all the pain is coming solely from the joint, as opposed to the muscles. One physical therapist I visited with noticed my lack of internal rotation and immediately said, “Well, that may just be because of the joint.”  What the heck does that mean? He clearly didn’t know (or have the time) to figure out what the root cause was and just used the nebulous, general term of “the joint” to diagnose (and discourage) me as unfixable unless I have surgery. I don’t think medical professionals realize how discouraging their words can be. It can shut people down from even trying to figure out the real cause and solution of an issue might be. Fast forward to today, and through trial, error, and experimentation I’m learning that I can see immediate improvements in my internal rotation by working on my internal rotator muscles through rotational lunges and reverse clams.

Who’da thought?

With all that said, I’ve had both physical therapists and doctors be very helpful in some ways. It was a different physical therapist that helped me learn that much of my pain was coming from my muscles, as opposed to the hip joint itself. And my stem cell doctor was great. Heck, we got cartilage growing back in my hip joint, which is too freakin’ cool.

All this to say, I’m learning I have to be curious about my body, because it’s up to me to fix it.

Deeper Findings: The Role of My Internal and External Rotators

The more I explore different movements, the more I am convinced that my internal rotator group of muscles in my hip are weak on the left side. In some ways, it seems obvious, especially given the fact that I have very little internal rotation on that side.

Interesting, however, is that the more I do gentle rotational lunge movements with that side, the more internal rotation I gain. Sometimes, I’ll notice an immediate improvement in my internal rotation.

And there seems to be a direct correlation between how much my pain adductors learn to lengthen (which reduces pain) and how activated my internal rotators are.

The rotational lunges I’ve been doing have been very, very helpful. The reverse clam movement seems to activate my internal rotators as well, so I need to do more of those. I’m hoping the two movement complement each other. However, with me compliance becomes an issue with any movement that requires me to lay down, simply because it takes alot of work for me to get down on the ground. Therefore, I’ve been practicing with standing movements that focus on activating my internal rotators, such as focusing on rotating my left heel out (but keep it planted to the ground) while I rotate to the left. Also, focusing on driving the left knee inward is a helpful cue. If I can find a good corner to place o the outside of heel, then that helps too. And placing my hands on my hips and feeling those muscles move is very helpful.

Speaking of placing  my hands on my hips, I can feel a clear difference when my internal rotators are active versus the external rotators, especially on my right (stronger) side. It’s extremely helpful having a stronger side to compare the weaker side to.

Upping My Game

Considering trying some/all of these for a week, in addition to what I’m already doing, to see if it helps me move even more in the right direction:

  • SUPER IMPORTANT: Rotating lunge on weak leg. Twist to left. Sarah Duvall recommends this exercise too, here. This should help your pelvic floor as well. I notice an immediate positive difference in my strength and pain level when I do these. Also, the same day I started doing these, I noticed my leg length discrepancy (while sitting on couch and leaning back with knees drawn partially up) was noticeably less. To start off, I’m doing a bunch of isometric holds first and adding in a little bit of twisting where I can. This is quite the challenge. Considering taking this movement to the pool to see if I get greater range of motion)
  • Standing leg extension for hamstrings and glutes. Progress to band when you can. Use with EMS Unit.
  • Practice putting as much weight as you can on weak leg while in internal rotation. I seem to stand better on one leg when in internal rotation, as opposed to external.
  • Glute bridge
  • Laying on stomach leg extension with EMS Unit
  • Fire hydrant tissue work
  • Walking in park or on treadmill (have done this just a couple times in the last week, so let’s do more)
  • Reverse clam
  • Normal clam (when you can do it without popping and clicking and excessive TFL activation)

Back to Doing Photo Shoots – After Six Months!

Today was an important milestone. I did my first photo shoot in six months, and I did it on ONE crutch (which was a spur of the moment decision).

I last approximately 57-ish minutes on one crutch, woot!

And it gets crazier. I went home, sat on the couch for an hour doing computer work, and when I got up my left leg/hip muscles were still turned “on”, and there was significantly less pain than when I normally just stand up from sitting. I remember going, “Whoa” as I put weight on the leg and felt it hold me up. Later on when I sat back down, and then got up again, it was more “off” like normal, but still, we’re making progress.

This changes things. While it’s still tough work being on one crutch, I need to do that more. I have grocery shopping at Kroger in my sites, and then eventually working up to the larger, Meijer.

I’d also like to start using one crutch when I walk into and out of the pool facilities. In fact, I did that today. It was a challenge (especially since I’d already completed the photo shoot in the morning, so my legs were a bit worn out), but I did it.

The strides forward (no pun intended) I’ve made these past eight days have been more than usual, and very encouraging. So what have I been doing?

  • Using my EMS (electrical muscle stimulator thingamajig) unit to help stimulate my muscle fibers while doing many of the movements listed below. I use the EMS unit 2-3 times per day, in about 10-20 minute increments each time.
  • while standing, I’ll tighten my glute medius/side muscles and let it propel my hips in the opposite direction. Important is that I keep both feet planted. It’s harder to do this on my left side than right, obviously. I’ll do a variation of this while leaning on each leg, on tiptoe, etc, whatever I can think of in the moment.
  • while standing, I’ll do a modified “hip hike”, where I’ll let my glute medius lift the hip and then propel it outward.
  • micro lunges, while twisting towards the leg that is forward and tightening the glute behind me. It’s really cool seeing the progress on these, it was painful to do them at all, even with shallow movements. As of today, however, it’s way easier. I only experience minor pain when doing shallow micro lunges. Now I can start making them a little deeper.
  • gentle deadlift/hip hinge bow
  • gentle leg extensions while leaning over counter, some while standing.
  • shifting weight side-to-side, then front and back
  • placing left leg slightly in front of me, as if I were going to take a step. And then slowly shifting my weight onto that leg. I only go as far as I can with minimal pain (I can’t get far yet). This one seemed to reduce my pain when walking with crutches and moving around in general. I’ve also started twisting away from the leg that is forward.
  • taking the stairs on occasion
  • 5-7 minutes on the elliptical (not every day yet)
  • stationary cycling
  • holding a side plank in the jacuzzi, starting today. This was challenging, even in water. Eventually I want to be able to lift the leg on top comfortably.
  • aqua exercises/jacuzzi routine for general tissue work and conditioning

Future progressions I’m considering:

  • adding weight to the leg extension while leaning over counter
  • doing the leg extension while laying flat on my stomach on the floor
  • standing on one freaking leg, yeah!
  • being able to do side-lying leg raises
  • being able to lay on my back and lift my leg
  • walking on the treadmill

Well, here I go back at it loading up for a photoshoot. After months of being humbled by these crutches, I’m slowly reintroducing myself to doing photo sessions with clients again. It’s amazing the things we take for granted until we lose them and have to work hard to get them back, like simply being able to walk. In my case, I’m working hard everyday to get my hip healthy again and battle through osteoarthritis. And you know what? The cool thing is I’m getting there, bit by bit. Each day so far brings more strength and a little less pain, woot! And it’s so flippin’ neat to see the actual cartilage growing back when the doc does imaging. I have gained an entirely new perspective and empathy for people dealing with chronic pain. Before all this, I didn’t get it. Physical fitness was my thing, and it came easy to me. Talk about learning a life lesson. Everyone is dealing with some kind of personal battle ( be it physical or emotional) , so be patient with people. And if you see someone with crutches, a cane, a walker, wheelchair, etc, then hold the door for them. Be kind. Be friendly. Don’t judge, because it could be you one day. Yes, I’m still on crutches, and yes, I have a long way to go, but so far I’m slowly moving in the right direction, and I thank God for it. The photo session went well by the way. At the last minute, I decided to do it on ONE crutch instead of two… It was a success! Here’s to baby steps! #feelingblessed #theprocessofbecoming #beatingosteoarthritis #osteoarthritis #crutchlife

Well, here I go back at it loading up for a photoshoot. After months of being humbled by these crutches, I'm slowly reintroducing myself to doing photo sessions with clients again. It's amazing the things we take for granted until we lose them and have to work hard to get them back, like simply being able to walk. In my case, I'm working hard everyday to get my hip healthy again and battle through osteoarthritis. And you know what? The cool thing is I'm getting there, bit by bit. Each day so far brings more strength and a little less pain, woot! And it's so flippin' neat to see the actual cartilage growing back when the doc does imaging.

I have gained an entirely new perspective and empathy for people dealing with chronic pain. Before all this, I didn't get it. Physical fitness was my thing, and it came easy to me. Talk about learning a life lesson. Everyone is dealing with some kind of personal battle ( be it physical or emotional) , so be patient with people. And if you see someone with crutches, a cane, a walker, wheelchair, etc, then hold the door for them. Be kind. Be friendly. Don't judge, because it could be you one day.

Yes, I'm still on crutches, and yes, I have a long way to go, but so far I'm slowly moving in the right direction, and I thank God for it. The photo session went well by the way. At the last minute, I decided to do it on ONE crutch instead of two... It was a success! Here's to baby steps!

Undeniable – Positive Changes, Slowly but Surely

Since Thursday August 23, I’ve been “Greasing the Groove”, often with my EMS unit, and generally being on my feet more. When I’m on my feet, I try to move correctly and use neuromuscular-minded movement, although I still have a way to go. I also do repetitive drills throughout the day. I also take more time to make dinner (as opposed to rushing through it in order to get off my feet, or not making it at all). On Monday, I was on my feet for an hour to make dinner, and I could barely do it. On Tuesday (yesterday), I was on my feet for nearly two hours at dinnertime. While it wasn’t as much moving around (maybe?), it was much easier than the day before.

For the last 3 days, I’ve also been doing mini “triathlons” as I like to call them: I’ll hop on my stationary bike for about 10 minutes, then the elliptical/adaptive strider at the gym for 5-7 minutes, and then I do my aqua routine, which includes mobility work in the jacuzzi. I’m still trying to figure out when I should work in active rest days, as it’s not a ton of activity, but I don’t want to overdo it.

The results so far? By night time, I’m usually feet-aching did-I-rub-down-my-cartilage tired. It’s alot of work, physically and mentally. But when I got up this morning, I noticed I have slightly more power in my posterior chain, and as I maneuver around the kitchen, I can use my stabilizing muscles to help me stand ever so straighter.

Interesting struggle: It’s so hard for me to get a good left glute squeeze. Instead, I tend to clench my jaw and pelvic floor automatically. This needs to stop. I’m working on it.

Interesting realization: it’s been weeks since I’ve had hamstring pain on my left (weak) side.

I’m definitely a little better, and definitely not worse. Despite my constant fears of grinding down the joint (it’s so hard to get the bone-on-bone MRI and Xray images out of my head), there is an increase in strength, and a decrease in pain.

Seeing Improvements as I Grease the Groove

It’s been approximately 2 days since I’ve been “Greasing the Groove”, and I’m seeing improvements in strength and a decrease in pain already.

This morning when I leaned over the counter and extended my painful weak leg behind me in a straight-leg extension to work my glutes, I was able to knock out 10-12 slow, gentle movements with much less pain and no clicking. Mind you, I didn’t lift my leg too high, but I usually don’t. It seemed to take much less effort to lift the leg, as if my glutes were more turned on. Just a couple days ago, I’d do the movement and getting pain and clicking immediately, before the leg even moved.

This is crazy.

Also, as soon as I started walking around this morning, I could feel my body wanting to attempt to stand straighter when I walked on the left side.  It’s as if my glute medius/stabilizing muscles are trying to kick in.

Summary of what I’ve been doing to bring these changes…

Over the past two days, I’ve been greasing the groove with tiny little exercises, all while standing. Notable is that the first day I started doing these exercises, I noticed an increase in strength and a decrease in pain. And I mean, right away, especially with the exercise where I step forward and place a little weight on my left side, as if I’m going to take a step forward (but I don’t yet, because I’m not quite strong enough). By right away, I mean as soon as I finished the movement, and then grabbed my crutch to hobble across the living room, the movement was notably easier. It was the type of improvement that would normally take weeks for me to feel.

So what have I been doing? Here’s a summary below. Note that I’ve added some movements as compared to when I originally started:

  • yesterday, I starting using my EMS (electrical muscle stimulator thingamajig) unit to help stimulate my muscle fibers while doing many of the movements listed below. I used the EMS unit about 3 times throughout the morning, and into the afternoon.
  • while standing, I’ll tighten my glute medius/side muscles and let it propel my hips in the opposite direction. It’s harder to do this on my left side than right, obviously. I’ll do a variation of this while leaning on each leg, on tiptoe, etc, whatever I can think of in the moment.
  • while standing, I’ll do a modified “hip hike”, where I’ll let my glute medius lift the hip and then propel it outward.
  • micro lunges
  • gentle deadlift/hip hinge bow
  • gentle leg extensions while leaning over counter, some while standing.
  • shifting weight side-to-side, then front and back
  • placing left leg slightly in front of me, as if I were going to take a step. And then slowly shifting my weight onto that left. Only go as far as you can with minimal pain (I can’t get far yet). This one seemed to reduce my pain when walking with crutches and moving around in general.
  • take the stairs on occasion
  • 5-7 minutes on the elliptical (not every day yet)
  • aqua exercises/jacuzzi routine for general tissue work and conditioning

This is encouraging. I think I’ll keep at this and see how it goes. In the back of my mind I hope I’m not doing damage to the joint, but at the same time if I’m in less pain and feel more strength, then shouldn’t I pursue it?

And it’s cool to think of some of the progressions that are possible, such as:

  • adding weight to the leg extension while leaning over counter
  • doing the leg extension while laying flat on my stomach on the floor
  • standing on one freaking leg, yeah!

Greasing the Groove

While it’s all the rage to go hard and fast with a chosen workout routine these days, perhaps I’d be served best by “greasing the groove” – as in, doing a little bit each day.

Months ago, it hurt to even point my toes while lying down – and on both feet. It felt like a thin bolt of lightning down the back of my leg, just under the calf and extending to my achilles tendon. The movement was also accompanied by weakness, as if I didn’t have full control. Alarming, to say the least. I don’t know what caused this, but I think perhaps the muscles were getting weak/imbalanced since I was walking so oddly, and without crutches at the time. Once I started using crutches, I also made it a point to flex and point my toes while lying on the couch and watching TV. How often, I don’t know, but it became a semi-habit. I was unconsciously “greasing the wheel”.

And I can’t remember exactly when, but over time the pain lessened, and then went away. For months now, it’s been a non-issue, but I haven’t dwelled much on it. But perhaps I should. Perhaps because the muscles were slowly strengthened / re-educated on how to move?

What if I need to “grease the groove” for my hip/leg muscles?

And what if this is the case for my hip? What if my much of my pain is coming from freaked out/imbalanced muscles? Even if this is only partially the case, I should pursue this. Totally worth it if I were able to reduce my pain by 50% for example. If I could cut my pain in half, I think I’d lose my mind with joy.

So I think I need to try this with my left hip. I’ve experimented with simple strengthening movements this morning, and feel the difference already. For example, every time I get up, I do some micro lunges withe the weak leg forward in order to target the hamstring and glutes. This movement creates that shooting sensation of pain that leads to the audible sound of things cracking in my leg (I still can’t put my finger on where. The knee? The hip joint?), so I move SUPER slow and gentle. Every time I do it I hope I’m not doing damage/wearing away cartilage, and yet it’s such a basic movement I’m tired of avoiding it. If I want to walk again, I need to be able to do things like this. And I keep the lunge angle to a minimum. Seriously. This is a regression of a mini lunge. It’s a freakin’ micro lunge, y’all.

Then, with my leg still out in front of me, I’ll lower myself into a gentle Romanian Deadlift-esque bow/hip hinge with my weak heel pressing into the ground in order to gently strengthen my glutes and hamstrings.

Then I’ll lean against a nearby counter and extend my weak leg behind me in a slow, mini extension move. I try to do 5-10, although sometimes I’ll quit early because, again, the crackling and shooting pains.

Then I’ll stand up straight and tall, and gently shift my weight from side to side., then front and back. Being able to shift my weight over to the weak side is new, and I like it. Still can’t get all my weight over there, and I can’t stand on one leg yet, but I’d like to think I’ll get there eventually. Interesting that putting my weak leg in front of me and shifting my weight slowly onto the heal is the most difficult and painful.

It seems like I’m thinking up new movements every day. Some of them don’t have names, ha.

Then, I did something I don’t usually do: I slowly took the flight of stairs up to the second floor. On average, I go up and down the stairs ONCE per day. But what if I made it 3-5 times per day? It’s a short flight, and I understand that I need to be careful because it’s such a weight-bearing movement. But it didn’t kill me. Wasn’t too bad, actually. For some reason, going up the stairs is easier than walking forward on level ground. Beat’s me.

This afternoon, I think I’ll do 5-7 minutes of the elliptical. What if I kept it short like that and just did a little every day? As opposed to killing myself doing 14 minutes (like last time), and then avoiding the thing for 4 days because I dread doing it again. Then I question my whole reason for even doing the elliptical, and then I question why I even bother with any of this, and then I question why I even both with life.

Best to avoid and prevent that train of thought.

This all adds up to a slightly higher activity level than I’m accustomed to. My hope is that my body adjusts over time, and I get over dreading being on my feet. An added benefit is higher moral. If I’m not killing my muscles all the time (which can be painful), I won’t dread doing the exercises / movements as much.

So in a nutshell, this is how I may “grease the groove” moving forward:

  • micro lunges
  • gentle deadlift/hip hinge bow
  • gentle leg extensions
  • shifting weight side-to-side, then front and back
  • placing left leg slightly in front of me, as if I were going to take a step. And then slowly shifting my weight onto that left. Only go as far as you can with minimal pain (I can’t get far yet). This one seemed to reduce my pain when walking with crutches and moving around in general.
  • take the stairs on occasion
  • 5-7 minutes on the elliptical
  • usual aqua exercises/jacuzzi routine

I’ve been ignoring my glutes – by accident!

The a couple days ago I laid on the floor on my stomach, and attempted to lift my left (weak) leg.

Couldn’t do it.

All the improvements I’ve seen over the last few months, and yet no improvement on using my glutes to lift my leg.

So yesterday I decided to focus on glute activation OUTSIDE of the pool. I kept it simple. Really, it was a series of glute squeezes in various positions. Lo and behold, today I notice some improvement in my pain levels.

Therefore, in doing research, here are glute exercises I’m considering:

  • starting every warm up I do with glute activation squeezes to make sure they’re turned on and ready to go (neuromuscular re-education
  • lay on stomach, squeeze glutes
  • hip thrusts
  • glute bridges
  • resistance band exercises

Eventually, I want to work up to doing glute bridges and hip thrusts because I can’t do them right now on the weak side.

Had a Great Workout Today – I Want to Remember It

Day by day, I’m feeling stronger. There’s less pain, and I feel my glutes and hamstrings getting stronger on the weak (left) side. Standing straight is getting easier, as well as moving around my kitchen. I’ve even found myself dong more tasks in the kitchen lately!

Today – August 15, 2018 – had a solid workout, and wanted to write it down so I don’t forget it. Here’s how it looked.

  • 13 minutes on the elliptical/adaptive strider (took occasional breaks): took long strides, did some slow squat holds, and lifted my knees up near my chest by balancing with my arms. Also did stair stepping motions.
  • Jumped in the jacuzzi and put my leg in traction. Also did the couch stretch.
  • In the regular pool, I walked forwards and backwards.
  • Also put the band around my knees and walked side to side.
  • With the band around my knees, went down into a squat and held it.
  • Took band off. Did weird long side-to-side strides, pushing off with my posterior muscles and stretching out my adductors. It looked like I was dancing/doing some type of Tai Chi in the water, but if felt right. 🙂
  • Using the noodle, I did my kicking drills: forward, backward, and each side
  • Hopped back in jacuzzi and put my leg in traction again.
  • Did some gentle range of motion movements in the jacuzzi.

This workout left me tired, but feeling stronger. Of course, I grounded with my grounding blanket and used the electric massager when I got home.

Woot!

The Phenomena of Grounding – Sure, I’ll Try It

Last week, I learned about grounding. In fact, after doing aqua therapy, I went to a local lookout over the St. Clair River and did 20 minutes of grounding. Immediately after I felt pleasantly sleepy and relaxed.

Ever the Amazon junkie, I ordered a grounding sheet that day and had it overnighted. Since then, I’ve been grounding (also called earthing) for about 10-12 hours a day.

Studies and testimonials from around the world include reduced inflammation and pain, among its long list of benefits. In all honesty, I’d heard of it before years ago, but frankly dismissed it as some woo woo stuff. However, in my current condition, I’m willing to try just about anything to help my body heal and those stem cells do their job.

My personal results so far? TBD 🙂

Interesting. Discovered trigger points? Something up with my glute muscles?

Trigger points in my right glutes causing groin crease pain?

Today, I hobbled out to the back deck and plopped down on the top wood step. After shifting around a bit, trying to get comfortable, I realized when I leaned to the right (good) side, just to the outside and under my “sit bone”, it reproduced the pain on that same side groin crease. There was also a lump there, and it reminded me of a knot. Or trigger point?

Very interesting.

Trigger points in my left glutes causing adductor pain?

I did this a few times, and it confirmed it. Later in the day, I performed the test on the left (bad) side, and discovered the pain in my adductor area was reproduced when I shifted my weight just to the inside/under the “sit bone”.

Also interesting.

Do my hip/pelvis muscles need these specific, subtle movements?

And later on, when leaning over the bed and balancing myself with one arm while changing clothes, I decided to do some light movements to activate the glutes/hamstrings in that position. I braced both hands on the bed while bent at the waist, and lightly rocked from side to side. The left side was more painful, so I took it slowly. I also leaned to the left and tapped my foot. Did this for a few minutes.

After straightening up and moving around the house, I noticed it was notably easier to shift my weight from my right to the painful left side.

These movements are subtle. I’m also working on the subtle weight shift that happens when going from one leg to the other while moving around the kitchen, or even from sitting to standing. For the past couple days, I’ve been trying to be mindful of these movements, rather than simply putting most of my weight on my right (good side). The hope is that over time my body will get used to these movements, and the involved muscles will become stronger.

So many questions.

Is this something I should look into? Is much of my dysfunction coming from possible trigger points in my low glute area? Could these trigger points be causing the pain I feel in my adductor area on the left side, and groin crease area on the right side?

So many questions!

I totally see why people go for hip replacements.

Like the title says, I see why people so often opt for surgery instead of taking the time to try to rehab a complex injury.

On average, I probably spend 3-4 hours doing “rehab stuff” for my body. This includes using my electric massager, using my EMS/TENS unit on select muscles, doing mindful movements around the house, using the recumbent bike at home, going to the gym to use select equipment, doing pool exercises, doing gentle stretching and range of movement exercises in the hot tub, and using my PEMF mat at home.

And this doesn’t even include the time I spend on strategic nutrition, supplementation, and enzyme therapy (which requires timing my meals and periods of intermittent fasting each day). Not to mention paying for stem cell therapy out of pocket to kickstart cartilage regrowth (which so far has been worth it).

Good grief.

For my severe case of dysfunction, it seems to take all of this in order to see slow, minuscule improvement each week. And while I’m willing to do all of this, I see why most folks just go ahead and get a replacement.

It’s hard to go against doctor’s recommendations.

When a doc is telling you the only way you can get out of pain is to surgery, it’s hard to go against their medical opinion. You assume they’re the expert. Often, they have your best interests at heart, even though they’re often trained in a very narrow lane of expertise…which usually leads back to surgery. And when they tell you a surgery will fix everything (even though there are plenty of cases where it does NOT), you want to believe them.

Rehab (in my case) takes more time than a typical 9 to 5 job allows.

If I had a normal job stuck in a cubicle somewhere, I wouldn’t be able to design my day the way I do, where I can get up and move around when I need to.

You have to be disciplined with nutrition.

Prior to this, I had no idea what a huge role nutrition would play in all this. In my case, it can literally make or break my success.

You have to be curious. Annoyingly so.

One annoying thing about me is that I tend to question what doctors tell me. So while many have recommended I just get my left hip replaced, I prefer to do research and learn about alternative methods. I’m NOT the first person on the planet to defy doc’s orders. Others have done it. I love reading about these rebels and learning their methods.

You may have to go above and beyond the physical therapy that your insurance covers.

I hear alot of folks say their insurance covers X number of physical therapy sessions, or X weeks of physical therapy sessions. That’s all well and great, but sometimes your particular injury may require more from you. Sometimes you have to be motivated to go the extra mile.

Most folks are fine doing as much physical therapy as their insurance will pay for, and then sitting on their bum the other days of the week. In my case, that’s not enough. I have to do something EVERY DAY, even if it’s just doing gentle stretches in the jacuzzi on my rest days or doing tissue work on days where my muscles need to recover (because DO need time to recover).

Hard truth for my case: If I let insurance dictate how often I worked on my body, I’d probably never get better…or I would lose heart because the process is so slow.

August 2, 2018 – More Progress…And Yet I’m Still Impatient

More Progress

The world is slowly becoming easier to navigate. My kitchen doesn’t feel like it’s five miles long. It doesn’t feel like a marathon to make my way from the living room workstation to the bathroom.

Also, standing on my knees is easier. About a month ago if I kneeled down and tried to straighten my upper body, I couldn’t do it. The left side was too weak/painful, and I could feel something catch in that hip. This morning, I was on all fours sorting through the mountain of laundry on the floor, and without thinking straightened up (while on my knees). Nice! I even knocked out a few hip hinges in that position, which I was definitely too painful a month ago.

EMS (electro muscle stimulation): My weak (left) leg takes nearly twice the power to get the medial quads firing compared to the other leg. Wow.

As of this week (or was it late last week?), I’ve started using the elliptical/adaptive strider at the gym adjacent to the pool. First I only lasted 2:11, and then about 7:00, and then I did 15:00. After 15:00 (which wiped out my energy levels for the rest of the day, similar to the way a 5k run used to), I took it back down to 10:00, which was better. It’s hard trying to figure out what is too much vs not enough for my body.

Lately, I’ve been getting a gnarly pain in my left hamstring/lower glute area, so I’ve given myself a handful of days off of the elliptical. It’s not painful every step, but on frequent occasions when I go to lift my leg when stepping forward or going up a step, it’s like a kick in the butt. Ouch! The last thing I need is a pulled muscle…I tell myself maybe the muscle is just cramping from disuse, and it needs time to learn to act like a normal muscle again.

*sigh*

Patience

Reminding myself of my baby steps forward is helpful during this infuriatingly slow process. Even as I grow stronger and in less pain, I grow increasingly frustrated that I’m not “normal”. It’s hard not to hyper-focus on other people who seem to walk without difficulty and not get jealous…or bitter.  It’s like the world is passing you by.

I’ve never worked for anything so hard in my life.

Reaching humble goals!! A half mile. Can’t walk without crutches yet, but I can finally pull myself onto an elliptical machine and use it. 😀 It’s been forever since I’ve been able to do a half mile of anything. For the last couple months, each week (sometimes each day) brings something new I can do, and a little bit less pain. By the way, I don’t know why this thing says my heart rate was zero. That would make me a zombie. It most definitely was above zero! Surgeons told me I’d need a hip replacement if I wanted to get my life back. I’ve chosen to try a different path. #mylegsaretired #goals #osteoarthritis #theprocessofbecoming

Reaching humble goals!! A half mile. Can't walk without crutches yet, but I can finally pull myself onto an elliptical machine and use it. 😀 It's been forever since I've been able to do a half mile of anything. For the last couple months, each week (sometimes each day) brings something new I can do, and a little bit less pain.

By the way, I don't know why this thing says my heart rate was zero. That would make me a zombie. It most definitely was above zero!

Surgeons told me I'd need a hip replacement if I wanted to get my life back. I've chosen to try a different path.

My Hip Cartilage Is Actually Growing Back

I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it myself. Yesterday was the 6 week follow-up appointment with my stem cell doctor, and he wanted to do an ultrasound of my left hip to see if there was any progress.

Initially, I said no, I didn’t want to see, because if there were no signs of improvement I would be severely, irrevocably deflated. He then quickly reassured me that six weeks was still soon after the procedure, and that often times you can’t tell a visual difference anyway. We didn’t have to look, he said, if I didn’t want to.

Well, that just made me want to look. After a moment of thought, I told him to go for it, because my curiosity would get the best of me. It would be nice to know if the months of hard work I’d been doing with nutrition, supplementation, and exercise had made any difference at all.

The ultrasound gel was cold. I didn’t mind. Much better than my previous visit, when I lay on the table writhing in pain as they extract bone marrow from my lower back.

There were a short few moments of silence as the doctor studied the images on the computer screen, and then he looked at me with excitement in his eyes.

“You can already tell a difference,” were his words.

I swallowed in disbelief, and said the first thing that came to my mind: “No way.”

“Yes,” he said, the corners of his mouth turning up into a subtle smile. “There’s a clear difference from six weeks ago. You can see for yourself.”

He turned the screen towards me and pointed out my femur, and the line of cartilage he claimed was growing back. He then showed me a screenshot from six weeks ago of the same area, and there was a clear gap in the cartilage, almost like a gate door was left open. (I know, weird analogy, but that’s what came to mind). Even my untrained eye could see there was a clear, obvious improvement between the two images. In the new image, the gate had appeared almost closed.

“Hell yes,” escaped from lips before I could stop it. I asked him to flip back to today’s ultrasound, and then visually soaked up the improved image as much as I could, trying to burn it into my memory. Looking back, I should have taken a screenshot of the thing with my phone.

Walking (limping with my crutches) out of the office that sunny afternoon, the first thing I did was call my hubby and give him the good news. Then I texted/called other family and friends who had been supporting and praying for me during this ordeal. To actually have solid good news to report was surreal.

It’s still early yet, and I know I have a long way to go, but it so, so nice to finally be moving in the right direction. To say this year has been brutal would be a vast understatement. It’s also nice to know that the pain reduction and strength gains from the last six weeks have not been in my head. The mind can play tricks on you, after all.

And then there’s the question of how much aqua therapy is playing a role since the stem cells are obviously working. I still believe the water exercises and jacuzzi sessions have been very important. The stem cell doc prescribed physical therapy to go hand-in-hand with the stem cell therapy after all, so the two are working together. And there’s no denying that I was in less pain from the very first day I stepped into the pool.

We’ll see what the next six weeks bring, when I have another follow-up appointment. I have to stay focused and keep working hard.

It’s just nice to have some positive results, finally.

List of Improvements Thus Far – July 21, 2018

The post will serve as a reminder of how far I’ve come, because doggonit, I get so impatient with how long this progress is taking. Yet, I’m making progress. I can’t lose site of that.

Since May 14, 2018 (a little over 2 months ago), here are the improvements thus far:

  • I can go up and down the stairs like a normal person. Still wobbly and lopsided sometimes, but I no longer have to take the stairs one leg at a time.
  • Standing hip flexion is past 90 degrees on my left (weak) side. If I will recall, at my worst, it was hard to lift the foot six inches to slip on a shoe.
  • I can lift my lift my left leg getting into and out of bed/the car. It used to be dead weight. I literally used to lift my left leg with my hands.
  • When getting into the car, I can momentarily stand on my left leg (while holding onto the car) while I lift my right leg to get into the car. Like a normal person. This improvement came even before I had my stem cell therapy.
  • While driving, it used to be the most difficult, painful, excruciating thing to lift my left leg/foot and bring it towards me. It was just as difficult to extend it out. I can now do this several times. It’s work, but not nearly as difficult or painful as it used to be.
  • For some reason, pointing my toes with either foot used to send pain shooting up the back/side of my achilles tendon area up almost into my calves. There was weakness too, like a I couldn’t get a good flex in. This is now 98% gone. I don’t know what it was (weakness? trigger points?), but it’s nice that it’s gone.
  • In the last week, I’ve been able to slowly put more weight on my left leg while standing stationary. I’m not quite equal yet, but getting there. Maybe 40/60. I can also stand taller, engaging my deep lower pelvic core and lateral stabilizing muscles
  • I stand notably straighter than I used to. Not as twisted to my right as I used to be.
  • Sitting, I’m not as twisted either.
  • Walking (with my crutch(es)) is slightly less painful. My goal is to get down to one crutch all the time while putting almost even weight on both legs. Would be great. Currently, I mostly use one crutch around the house, but when I go out, I use two.
  • My weak left hamstring is slowly getting stronger
  • My left adductor group is learning to lengthen
  • Hip hinging is getting easier. I first noticed this a few days after bone marrow stem cell injections.
  • When sitting, I’m able to pick my left leg up higher. Still a bunch of external rotation (internal rotation still a challenge), but the muscles are learning to get more control in a wider range of motion.

I’m Becoming “That Creeper” at the Pool

So the more I exercise and do range of motion work at the pool, the more I realize how much my body likes it. The more I realize my body likes it, the more thought I put into how I can maximize my efforts. The more I work to maximize my efforts, the more I begin to incorporate somewhat weird tools into my aqua routine.

Example: I’ve started utilizing an exercise band around my legs for side to side movements in the pool to work my lateral muscles. In fact, I’ll wear the band around my waist before I even get into the pool. Sometimes I get weird looks, like I’m trying to start a fashion trend. No, my dears. Perhaps in official aqua rehabilitation pools these bands are normal, but apparently at the local fitness pool, not so much.

Another example: Today, when I go into the jacuzzi, I’m going to bring my small lacrosse ball in with me in order to work on my glute/piriformis/possibly hamstring muscles. Whatever I can get it. I may look like a perve while doing this.

Another example: I’m probably going to experiment with “trigger point taping” my adductors. This tape will show while I wear my swimsuit, even with the  shorts I wear. I will look weird.

Alas.

July 21, 2018 – Unmistakeable Improvement

Good gracious me. It’s been almost a month since I’ve been going to the pool, and the improvement I’m seeing is unmistakable. I almost don’t want to say anything, because I’m afraid I’ll start overthinking things and sabotage myself. I think the improvements are due to a number of factors, including the pool exercises, jacuzzi mobility work, stem cell therapy, and the nutrition/supplementation protocol I’ve been following.

A realization – I need to get at those trigger points

For the past few days, I grudgingly started learning more about trigger points, and that’s been a revelation. Here are a few facts that stood out to me:

  • trigger points can shorten and weaken a muscle
  • trigger points in the adductors can make it neurologically difficult for you to engage your glutes and hamstrings
  • often, trigger point pain can be debilitating, and is often confused with the pain of arthritis.

If that ain’t me, then I don’t know what is. Looking back over a year, there’s a very good chance trigger points were involved in alot of my pain. They could even be a large part of why my left hip joint closed up (possibly. Although it’s also possible my left hip joint was closing up over time. I did have some impingement, after all for years before that, after all).

So for the past few days I’ve been working periodically throughout the day to get at my adductor trigger points on both legs, since my right side is beginning to display symptoms similar to my left. ugh. I’ve been using my hands and my electronic massager to get at painful spots. Sometimes I focus on relaxing the muscle. Other times I bring the muscle through a range of movement. I try not to overdo it with the electric massager because the jury’s still out on if over-using it could damage nerves/bones, etc. The thing is powerful.

Exercising while working

I spend a fair amount of time at my computer in the mornings while working at home, so I’ve been playing with keeping my body healthy, moving, and hydrated while getting work done. How do I do this? I think I mentioned it in another post, but here’s a run down:

  • I drink my green powder + MSM + vitamin C mix
  • I drink my coffee + bone broth powder + grass-fed butter + stevia or honey
  • Immediately after, I drink a cup or two of water.
  • Start working on computer. With feet on floor, lean forward to engage glutes and hamstrings in a kind of hip hinging move.  Lean back into couch to practice pelvis stabilization and core engagement, similar to a gentle sit up. Sometimes, while leaning back with my core engaged, I’ll lift one or both legs. It’s incredibly difficult, but getting easier.
  • After 20-25 minutes, I have to pee, so I get up to pee
  • Drink more water
  • Work on computer. Do more mindful movements. Sometimes I’ll hook up my EMS to my left (weak) hamstring for 20 minutes to help it recover from the previous day’s workout, or I’ll put it on a stronger setting to actually work the muscle a bit.
  • After 20-25 minutes, I have to pee, so I get up to pee
  • Work on computer.
  • And so the cycle goes

I find that this keeps me from sitting at my computer for hours without moving, like I used to do. I also get some healthy movement in. 🙂

I’m still so impatient.

My pain is steadily decreasing. My strength is steady increasing. And yet I’m still really, really impatient. At the pool a couple days ago, I walked in grumpy because man, this process is grueling. It takes up my whole day. It’s literally on my mind all the time. It seems like the entire world can walk but me. Getting stared at with these crutches gets old. Quick.

And yet, all I can do is persevere.