Will I ever be ok? 

As I near the end of my 4 months of yoga therapy, I’m starting to wonder… Will I ever be ok? It’s been a long 4 months of 90min yoga therapy sessions 5-6x a week that has been specifically designed to meet my needs. While everyone else is doing advanced yoga, I’m very much back to basics. It’s so frustrating and a little dull. I’m not even allowed to join the class to do the sun salutations. It’s very humbling to go from having a strong practice to this. While I have significantly improved, I’m still having pain in multiple joints and am struggling somewhat to progress. I’m at the stage where I’m wondering “Will I ever be OK?”.  This hip injury has been such a long, painful and tedious journey.

These days hip itself is actually ok (mostly), it’s my ankle, shoulder, neck and wrists that are causing grief and stopping me from progressing with the yoga. I am seriously questioning if yoga is for me but I’m not quite ready to give up. Before surgery I tried a few yoga classes and it always destabilised my pelvis and significantly increased the hip pain. The problem with the classes was that it was hatha style, and I never knew what I was getting until I was in the class. Some classes were better than others. Theoretically now my hip has been fixed and I’ve got a lot more strength, I should be ok but my other joints are playing up. I’m a little fearful of making things worse because of the hypermobility. Some people say yoga is ok and helpful, others say it’s a terrible idea. My instinct is that the right kind of yoga will support my health and joints moving forward, it’s just a case of taking it slowly and not pushing myself. I need to find the right teacher to help me find my way.  I am having doubts that my teacher in India is the best person to help me find my way. This is disappointing as I’ve considered myself a student of his since 2008, he was my first ever yoga teacher and to some degree has had a big impact on my life. My yoga practice changed me in so many ways.

Because of these doubts I’ve been reading up on hyper-mobility and I learnt that it takes 6-12 months of exercise 5x a week to build up the necessasary muscle tone to support hyper-mobile joints.  Muscle tone is different to muscle strength, muscle tone is how your muscles feel when at rest… a few months ago mine were soft and pudgy. I’m starting to get some muscle tone but I’m really only 3-4months in, so really need to keep up with the exercise despite the pain. Hopefully once I have muscle tone back the joints will be less painful. When I was active (before the hip problems) I had minimal joint pain, and I’ve had a physio tell me it’s very very important to exercise regularly for the rest of my life.  I know exercise is very important and while the next 6 months might hurt a little, I need to keep working on it. It’s just a case of working out the best approach.

Soon I’ll no longer be under the guidance of my yoga teacher, the training wheels are coming off and I really do need to trust that “it WILL be ok”.  I can do this, I’ve already come so far. I think I’ll probably continue with my yoga sequence, modify it a little to make it more enjoyable and hopefully less painful. My instinct and experience is that my joints like to move, I think starting with basic sun salutations is best for me. I’ll seek my teachers opinion first, then experiment with it. I think I’ll also do less yoga and more swimming/cycling. I’ll be going to Bangkok where I’ll have access to a pool and exercycle so I’ll make the most of that.  Hopefully after a few more months I’ll be ready to try a beginners yoga course and can take it from there.  When I go back to yoga classes in the west I think it’s very important to start with a beginners mind and make sure my technique is sound. I believe that a strong foundation of strength and knowledge will set the scene for an enjoyable, balancing and safe asana practice. I really hope so.

It will be ok. 

I am ok. 

It is ok. 

I will continue to be ok. 

It’s going to be ok. 

I will be ok.

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And the ankle!

As you may have gathered, my ankle has been bothering me for quite some time. I sprained it a year ago and because I didn’t trust my pain levels, I choose to ignore it.  Eventually I saw the physio and had a few treatments, then figured it was good enough and my focus went back to the hip rehabilitation.   Then in March this year I made the silly mistake of taking pain killers and dancing on one leg (I really wanted to enjoy a concert) and I managed to sprain my ankle again! I’ve pretty much been seeing my physio on a weekly basis for my ankle ever since.

The sprain in March has created havoc with my hip because usually I bear most of my weight on this right leg.  So when the ankle hurt as much as the hip, I was caught in a cycle of trying to look after an injury on both legs. I’d stand on my left leg to give my ankle a break and cause my hip to be painful; then swap legs to give the hip a rest and flare up the ankle!  I was unable to use my standing desk and this caused a significant knock on effect to the hip.  In April I needed to take some time out to rest both injuries and I ended up on crutches for a couple of months as walking got too difficult.

I had ultrasounds and x-rays on my ankle which showed a lot of swelling but no major damage (phew). With taping and physiotherapy it  started to get better, then I managed to sprain it again while on crutches! Now that takes talent. After a couple more mild sprains the physio said my ankle joint was too unstable and I got confined to a brace for 10-12 weeks.  I was not impressed at the time, but its made a huge difference. With regular physiotherapy and weeks in the brace, my ankle has been getting better and better.  I’ve managed to get off my crutches and am able to use my standing desk again.

Today the physio said my heel raises are the best she’s ever seen me do and it looks like I only need 1-2 more treatments. I’m so pleased and relieved.  🙂  I need to get some new work shoes as the brace stretched my old ones and the risk of another sprain is too high, but once I’ve got new shoes I can ditch the brace too.  Hooray. One joint down, two to go!

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A long walk home

I decided to walk home for the first time in ages.

15mins into the walk it starts getting quite painful. I’m debating in my head how much is too much, maybe I should stop. I keep going.

Another 15mins passes and my thigh is on fire (just a little one) and my hip joint hurts and is feeling warm. My ankle is throbbing a little. I wonder if I will regret this. But I can feel my disused muscles working, my cheeks are pink and I remember how much I love to walk. I feel fat and unfit, I’m worried about going into surgery like this. I keep walking, just a little bit more.

It hurts. A lot. Once again I question myself, but I decide now is a good time to test my edge. But I’ll be sensible stop to rest a bit.

I stop at the bus stop, check my twitter feed and am instantly presented with an inspirational quote and image that gives me full confidence that I will keep walking until I get home. I am not going to give in to this pain, it’s already robbed me of so much. With tears in my eyes, with pain in my hip, ankle and shoulder… with a heavy and tired heart, I keep walking.

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Image: Robin Sharma (twitter: @_robin_sharma)

Disclaimer – A lot can be said for pacing. I pushed myself too far too soon and I paid the price. But I did so mindfully, so I think it’s ok. I knew I’d flare up the hip, but I knew it wouldn’t be so bad that I’d knock myself out for weeks as I’ve done in the past. I came home, iced and rested. No one was harmed in the walking experiment. 🙂

The value of rest

In April I hit the wall. My pain levels were escalating, I was getting increasingly more exhausted, and was finding it harder to deal with the daily grind that is a life in chronic pain.  It felt like things were spiralling slowly out of control so I went to the GP to discuss medication and pain management.  After some discussion we decided that it was better to rest and see if the pain levels would subside.  I took 1 week sick leave and 1 week annual leave.  In the 2 weeks I took off work, I slept a lot, watched DVDs and towards the end underwent ‘active rest’.  After my two weeks of much needed rest my pain levels had gone from a very uncomfortable 6-8/10 to an easy (and relaxed) 3/10.  The space this gave me to breathe was immense, its funny how you don’t realise how bad the pain is until it is almost taken away.

And then I went back to work.  My pain levels shot back up and the tiredness crept back quickly.  It was very clear to me how much pain and suffering my work is causing.  Sitting at a desk is creating havoc with my health, it is the number one thing I can’t avoid that flares up my hip pain.  While the standing desk helps, its not working for me as my standing tolerance is so low (made worse by spraining my ankle). The overstimulation of the office environment makes things worse, the bright lights and noise wears me down.

My two weeks of rest paid off though, I filled my cup and learnt the value of rest as part of my pain management toolbox.  This gave me the confidence to ask my employer to  reduce my hours leading up to the operation.  I’m now working 32 hours a week, which gives me time/energy to do my physiotherapy, swim, go to medical appointments and get some rest.

Advice from the physio

The physio who worked with me throughout my recent round of rehabilitation has left NZ, so I decided to go back to my old physio clinic. I’ll admit it was a little upsetting/weird to go back. I’ve been seen at that clinic regularly for 3 years now. I wish I didn’t have a need to go back there.

Anyways, a fresh set of eyes familiar with my case has proved useful, so far I’ve learnt:
– Ive got a lazy butt! It isn’t working properly so I’m practicing my one legged bridges. But despite my lazy butt she is very pleased (and a little surprised) with my much improved functionality.
– She was horrified to hear about the kickboxing but is agreeing to letting me try regular boxing on the condition I limit the twisting from the hips.
– I’ve got to focus on strength over flexibility, especially when doing yoga. She said its ok to play at my edge (to find it) but then pull back to 70% and build up from there slowly.
– I need to be careful not to stress the joint capsule, esp when doing the yoga. I’ve got a really good range of movement but I need to be keep being careful.
– When at choir I need to focus on core stability/grounding through my feet. Minimise the swinging as much as possible. Little swings are much better than big movement which seems to flare up the hip. When required remember to have feet in “third position” (ballet term) for standing. This helps with raising tall and maintaining core stability, but gives my hip a breather.

She’s worked on my back (kneeling chair seems to be causing issues), recommended I go back to having regular massages and see a suitably qualified personal trainer. I think the plan is to finish up the physio and self maintain from here if possible. She said to come back when needed. I really hope I can keep progressing on my own and don’t need to go back. More than anything I really hope this isn’t the best my hip can be. I’ve come to realise that patience, perseverance and time are wonderful healers. So I’ll keep working hard and keep being patient.

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My kickboxing career is over – doctors orders!

I saw my GP the other week to discuss medication and the plan forward from here. I gave her an update on the clicking/locking, pain levels, sleeping… Etc. I got my medication tweaked slightly and agreed to be patient with my rehabilitation (which feels like it’s seriously plateaued). I mentioned the kickboxing and told her about the minor post-kickboxing flare up… she was horrified I’d attempted boxing and made me promise not to do it again. She was not happy at all. Oops. Not entirely my fault, the physio gave me the green light and we tested the waters carefully. The doctor wasn’t overly impressed with my physio. :-/

So my Muay Thai Kickboxing career is over before it started. I’ve been told to stick to more gentle exercises like swimming and yoga. …sigh… I really did enjoy the boxing. Such a great workout and oh so much fun!

Alas, the benefits (fun, fitness and a rush of endorphins) may outweigh the pain, but the risk of further injury are too high. It’s simply not worth it.

Kick Boxing!

Last Monday I had my first go at kickboxing in over 2 years. It amazes me how the body can remember things, my physio could tell I’d done it before. It was awesome, I’d forgotten how much fun boxing is.

The good news, I can still box, there is one kick that’s not a goer for me but I did much better than expected AND I wasn’t in horrific pain afterwards (unlike last time). We only did 15mins or so, but it’s not a bad starting place.

The not so fabulous news, it kinda flared things up for a few days and my pelvis has been feeling a bit out of sorts. But in the scheme of things it’s totally worth giving it another go. My physio has given me the name of a trainer at the gym and she will let him know how far I can be pushed. I’m going to book in for next week.

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