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/

 

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.

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.