The analyst in me

After a very frustrating visit to the sports doctor I came to realise that one of my problems with this hip situation caused by me being an analyst.  It is my job to analyse problems and look for the root cause.  I identify options and make recommendations to solve problems.  I use systems thinking to see how things relate to each other, I consider the impact of change and I  keep my eye on the bigger picture.  If its appropriate, I recomend a sticky plaster solution… but I always try and identify the root cause of the issue and weigh up the options.

Doctors… they just don’t seem to problem solve in the same way as I do. The health system isn’t designed to treat the root cause.  Its all about managing symptoms in the easiest and least expensive way.   There is no cost/benefit and I don’t feel like my doctors are looking at the bigger picture.  Sure, investigating the problem properly to get a clear diagnosis may be expensive, but surely years of treatment and “pain management” is just as costly.   What if an operation can reduce my pain and let me be more active?  I’d rather have it sooner rather than later so I can actually enjoy my 30’s.

Through work and study I have learnt that a quick/easy ‘sticky plaster’ fix to a problem isn’t always the best option. If you don’t fix the root cause of the issue chances are, other problems will crop up in the system after you apply the fix.  Before you know it, you’ve got a system covered in plasters not running at optimum performance.

My sticky plaster is pain medication and limiting physical activity.  Other problems are cropping up because the pain meds affect my liver and digestive system.  Now I need to avoid alcohol and take pills to fix my digestive system.  Because I can’t go to the gym or walk very far my fitness is poor.  I feel like crap and I am not pain free.

My sticky plaster sucks.

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The downwards spiral

I had no idea how hard pain is to manage. There is a fine balance between inactivity which makes you weak and stiff, to too much activity which can make you plain old sore. I can’t seem to get the balance right. I can see that I am caught in another downwards spiral. Even my work has pointed out that it looks like the start of last year’s events happening again.  Last year ended pretty badly with a stint in hospital and weeks of bed-rest.

Today I was back at the hospital to get my pain meds tweaked. Once you get through the waiting lists (it’s taken me 6 months to actually get treated by the hospitals outpatients pain clinic), the service seems to be pretty good. The pain doctor is great; she seems to be a lovely person who genuinely cares. The problem is she doesn’t have a magic wand to make all this go away, she even had a look in her draws for one which was nice.  So I am now back on the daily meds to try and wrangle the pain back in. She is also going to ask my surgeon about another cortisone shot.

I have to say, I am absolutely guttered by this. But I’ve told myself this is only for a few months, until I can get past this glitch and…. and…. and…. then what?!

That’s the problem. There is no plan to fix me.

I think the best I can do is grin and bear the pain, try to make the best of the situation.  The osteopath is helping with alignment and releasing tight spots, perhaps with more core strength and fitness I might be able to be strong enough in the hip/lower back that the pain goes away. Kind of like it did in India. The thing is, in India I wasn’t walking anywhere, I wasn’t sitting at a desk and except for the daily yoga session I was resting A LOT. I spent most of my days flat on my back reading.

Oh how I wish I could go back to India and give yoga therapy another go. I feel trapped by this pain and I don’t know where to turn. Next Wednesday I am going to see the pain psychologist which will be interesting, fingers crossed he can help me to cope better with accepting this pain and living with it long term.

My month of yoga therapy

Wow, I can’t believe I’ve written about my month of meditation but I haven’t said anything about my month of yoga therapy in India! I’ve been practicing yoga on/off for the last 3-4 years, the off times are usually caused by the issues I have with my hip. Despite all the hip problems, I still keep coming back to yoga. I love it, it grounds me and keeps me healthy.

I discovered yoga while travelling in India and it is there that I met my wonderful teacher Mr Vinay Kumar of Prana Vashya Yoga. Having already been to see Vinay with hip issues (I’d freshly torn my ligamentum teres) and had great results, I was in no doubt that I would benefit from another visit to get past the rest of the post-surgery hip pain. I managed to get 2 months off work and was about to book the trip when I ended up in hospital with acute hip pain.

Its kinda silly… my pain had been spiralling downwards for months. I went to see a new Osteopath on the Wednesday, was in a lot of pain for a couple of days because of his treatment but when I got out of bed in Saturday afternoon I felt amazing. The referred pain from poor alignment/limping..etc had miraculously vanished and all I was left with was pain right in the middle of the joint. In true Julia style, I over did it. Too much standing, sitting and walking plus a sailing trip led to a very full feeling joint, swelling and increased pain levels. I had an exam coming up and was busy at work so I hired crutches and kept pushing through the pain. Unfortunately I pushed myself to the point I wasn’t sleeping or eating properly… it got pretty bad. To cut a long story short, my leg started going purplish and the swelling/pain made it hard to look after myself and I ended up in hospital. Yes, I am the kind of person that sometimes needs a kick up the butt to listen to my body.

Despite 10 days in hospital, 6 weeks of bed-rest and a gradual return to work over 1 month (part time work/bed rest) I still wanted to go to India to do the yoga. My family and friends were worried but I was determined to go because I knew in my heart it was the right thing.

So in December 2011, still on crutches and taking a lot of medication for the pain, I travelled to Mysore to study with my teacher. On arrival we had a catch up and discussed the plan for my stay. I ended up doing 1hr of Pranayama (which is like a breathing meditation), and 90 mins of yoga therapy a day. 6 days a week, for just over 4 weeks.  The focus was on strength (over flexibility) and ensuring I was resting when I was not in class.

The results were AMAZING. Within the first week I felt the circulation come back in my left leg which was a huge milestone and a relief. By the end of the trip I was off my crutches, walking without a limp and I was having pain free moments for the first time in a year. I managed to get off all my daily pain medications and I was only taking pain killers as required, sometimes going days without taking any medication.

These are amazing results in a short time, especially given what I’d been through in the few months before I arrived in Mysore. My surgeon was flabbergasted when he saw me on return from my trip. This was great because before I went away I could tell he’d pretty much given up on me and thrown me in the ‘too hard chronic pain’ basket.  I think (hope) I am giving him a new perspective on alternative therapies.

So, what happened next…. Well, I came back to New Zealand with instructions to keep up the yoga therapy but found it very difficult to maintain the commitment while living my regular life. It was hard enough going back to work for 8hrs a day without adding 90mins of yoga and 1hr of pranayama. I got pretty sick for a couple of months and took this as my body telling me to ease back. So I am disappointed to report I haven’t been able to keep it up as well as I’d hoped. I’ve lost quite a lot of strength and the pain is creeping back. I do continue to practice my yoga, I go to classes once a week and do short practices at home. The focus is on strength and I am working towards another trip to do yoga with my teacher, hopefully this time we can cement the improvements I make so they last longer.

If you are interested in studying with my teacher, his name is Vinay Kumar. He teachers a dynamic style of yoga but will do yoga therapy on request. See his website (Prana Vashya Yoga) for more information.

For more information about my experiences in India see my other blog, wwww.travellingkiwi.wordpress.com