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.