The best Thai massage ever

Oh my goodness, just had the best (and most painful) Thai massage ever. This guy found all the sore spots  straight away and was incredibly strong. He has studied massage in Thailand, and Chinese medicine in China and Taiwan. And best of all, he came to our house!

I think my yoga practice tomorrow will be very different than it was today.

Advertisements

Tears of sadness on the yoga mat

I’ve been getting progressively worse since leaving Mysore. Better in some ways, but worse in others. I’ve been pushing the limits and exploring my “edge” so that has resulted in more pain. But I’ve amazed myself with what I can do. I’ve walked for hours at a time, swam in the sea for 45mins several times and cycled to the market and back. These are all things I’ve not been able to do in years without a major flare up. 

But since returning to Thailand my sleep routine has changed, I’m not eating as well, I’ve been spending more time on the computer and in front of the TV. Bangkok is noisier, brighter and more stressful than Mysore. I’ve been playing with a 3yr old, lifting her and carrying her at times. This brings me joy but it’s physically challenging. I’ve also noticed my stress levels have been increasing as I worry about money, moving to a new country and finding a job. I am also avoiding the yoga mat.

It’s pretty easy to work out why some of my old symptoms are coming back. My joints hurt, the central sensitisation is worse and my feet are burning. Luckily I know what I need to do to resolve the situation and address the downwards spiral. The first step is address the sleep hygiene, have a massage (sort out over tight  muscles) and face the music on my yoga mat. 

The yoga mat is a funny place, before the chronic pain it used to be a place of retreat, relaxation, fun, community and physical challenge. I always loved it as it was a diversion from my busy life and a space to unwind. Now it’s a place where I check in with myself, and feel the effects of my lifestyle and whatever is going on with my health. There’s no running away from the pain on my yoga mat and this is the direct opposite to my old favourite pain management tool of distracting myself from pain. No wonder I’ve been avoiding my yoga mat! 

As much as I don’t like to feel the pain, yoga usually does make things better even if it hurts a lot to get started and it’s difficult to keep going. But I’m not enjoying yoga these days as it’s painful and lonely. Even when I was practicing in a class environment in Mysore, I was the girl in the corner doing something completely different to everyone else. I’ve not done a yoga class in years and I can’t wait to go back to classes to feel part of a yoga community again.

Today after a short yoga practice (aborted because pain levels were too high), I did a Yoga Nidra for 30min to calm my nervous system and reduce the central sensitisation. Suddenly I started to cry, I felt overwhelmed by sadness as I realised I’ve come to a point where I need to accept that managing pain is still a big part of my life. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s forcing me to live a much healthier, more mindful and balanced life. Many people live a life in chronic pain, I’m not alone in this. But it’s up to me to decide how I handle the situation moving forward. I could choose to go down the path of endless medical appointments, treatments and sitting on the sideline because I can’t do things. Or, I can live my life like a “normal person” and intergrate wellness and preventive measures into my lifestyle to avoid getting so bad I get sucked into doctors appointments and needed treatments to get better. 

I’m a big believer of “everything happens for a reason” – perhaps pain is the best way my body knows of how to push me into a healthy lifestyle! 

 

I need to start writing again!

Ok, I think its time to start writing again. The blog has been quietly ignored for a few months now for a variety of reasons. Mostly because sitting is still an issue for me after my surgery and computer work isn’t the best thing for me. Also because I’ve been so busy, busy with recovery from my hip surgery and busy with life.

At the moment I’m in India and 5 weeks into my yoga therapy course.   I left New Zealand mid October and travelled to Thailand to spend time with my family. After a few weeks in Bangkok I flew to Kolkata and did some travelling with a good friend of mine, this was a challenge on crutches but more about that later! After a week I then made my way to Mysore in Sothern India where I plan to stay for the next few months doing a yoga therapy course. This will be my 5th trip to Mysore to study yoga with my teacher Vinay Kumar (Pranavashya Yoga). My goal for this trip is to get my strength back, wean off my medications and find a way to return to a physical yoga practice.

Since arriving in Mysore I’ve managed to wean off my crutches completely (finally) and have significantly reduced my medications. My strength and range of movement is improving and I’m walking short distances without a limp. I still get some pain and swelling, but its manageable as long as I limit my activities and rest between my classes. The yoga sequence I am doing is designed for me so it doesn’t flare up the pain, my teacher is excellent and clearly knows what he is doing. I feel like I’m in good hands.

My days are quite long here, not because they are full of activity, quite the opposite in fact! At this stage I’m only allowed to attend one yoga class and have been instructed to rest well between. Because I’m still not able to sit in a chair without flaring up the pain my projects are on hold for now. This means I’ve got a lot of time to read and think. The thinking is why I think I need to start writing again!

I hope that writing will help me process what I’m feeling 4 months after surgery as I step on the threshold to a seemingly normal life without severe chronic pain. My accident was in 2009, I had my first surgery in 2010, major CRPS episodes in 2011 & 2012 and my second surgery in 2014 – I’ve forgotten what a normal life without pain is like, the transition from being a patient to a person is more challenging than you’d expect.

2 months after surgery

I’m 2 months post op now, the operation feels like a distant memory and I’d say I’m back to “normal sore” but continuing to get better with time. I’m frustrated with how slow my recovery has been, but still feeling optimistic that my surgery will be successful. I’m a big believer in positive thinking and I’m doing everything in my power to ensure a positive outcome, including moving overseas for 6months!

At the moment I’m walking inside without crutches and outside with one, unless I’m doing a lot of walking when I will use two for symmetry and speed. My philosophy with crutches is to try and slow down, focusing on form over speed. Making sure my left leg is recruiting the right muscles. I think I’m 1-2 weeks away from getting rid of the crutches entirely which is good. Both my physio and I agree it’s better to use them to manage the pain and avoid a limp. I’m looking forward to putting the crutches away forever and hope this will be my last time on them.

I am happy with my progress even if it’s a lot slower than I expected. There are some things indicate an improvement from before surgery, the biggest being able to sit in a car for short distances without too much issue. And being able to lie on my left side for 15-20mins before it gets sore. Going up stairs, and putting on shoes, socks and tights that are the only things that I really struggle with on a daily basis. That motion of pulling my knee to my chest isn’t great and my thigh feels a bit like mince meat! Standing, sitting and walking aren’t fantastic either but I’m used to that and hope with more strengthening (and time) I will continue to improve in this area. So it’s not great, but I’m definitely past the hardest part of surgery.

The next month of my rehabilitation will involve a lot of travel as I’m heading up north to visit my mother, then flying to Bangkok to stay with my father. The plan is to stay in Bangkok for a couple of months and then go to India for some yoga therapy. So my focus will once again be on the hydrotherapy, swimming and walking. I’ll also be getting back to my daily structured physio exercises which have gotten a bit half arsed while I pack up my life and get ready to move.

IMG_3840.JPG

Hip FAI Surgery

On Wednesday 13th August I finally had my surgery to remove the impingement in my hip (FAI). I had to call the booking office the night before surgery and was told to arrive at the hospital for a 7am checkin. At this stage I was still pretending that it was a holiday and I don’t think reality hit me until I woke up the next morning. This was good, less of a chance for the nerves to get the better of me.

I live so close to the hospital that I was able to walk there which I thought was amusing given I was going in for a hip operation. There was a handful of families also waiting to be first in line for surgery on that day. I was alone but this  didn’t really bother me, surgery is less scary the second time around.

I was one of the first patents called in; I chatted with the nurses and anaesthetist, got changed into a hospital gown and given a warm dressing gown to wear.  I had to wear a hair net and silly smurf slippers over my feet which cracked me up.  The surgeon was late, so I spoke with his registrar and waited in the pre-op area for ages.  The anaesthetist and I decided against the spinal in the end, so went for general anaesthetic and an infusion of something that would to help prevent pain complications (ketimine or licocane – not sure).  I wasn’t as nervous or scared as I expected to be, but I was grateful I got knocked out AFTER speaking to my surgeon and BEFORE going into the operating room.

Before I knew it I was in post-op recovery area and waiting to go up to the ward. I think I got up to the ward by noon and don’t really remember much of that afternoon.  I was in a fair amount of pain, but it was well managed.  I was given pain relief by IV and was able to control when I got it by pressing a button. The best part was turning my phone on and getting so many text messages from friends, workmates and family, including some lovely photos from my family in the UK. The worst part was getting up to go to the toilet numerous times that first night, I had to use a zimmer frame and every time my body would shake uncontrollably which made peeing very challenging. My body has a thing when it is in an excessive amount of pain that it shakes uncontrollably and I get really cold.

I was in hospital for 4 days and the time on the ward wasn’t overly restful as I was sharing with three very noisy old ladies. This was especially challenging when we changed the pain medication and the central sensitisation went a bit haywire.  Bright lights and noises are a problem for me, especially when I’m in pain or stressed. Hospitals are very bright and noisy places,  my ward was chaotic and the old ladies had a lot of visitors who ignored visiting hours.  Thankfully, the pain team  did a good job and got my pain back under control fairly quickly and I was able to go home just in time for my birthday.

The surgeon was light on details but he said the operation went well. When I asked about the number of holes in my leg (more than I was expecting) he said that he wanted to be sure they got all of the impingement so that gives me confidence. I noticed the feeling come back in my foot almost immediately and the pain in my hip feels different. It is still early days, but I am feeling really hopeful about the surgery.  I know I’ve got a lot of work to do to make a full recovery, and I know its not going to be easy (or happen very quickly), but I’m feeling really hopeful and am ready to put all this behind me. I’m very relieved the worst is over now and I am on the road to recovery.

I am partial weight bearing on crutches (allowed to put a little bit of weight on my foot, but not much) and am resting at home for at least 2 weeks. At the 2 week mark I will see the surgeon for a follow up and to get my stitches out.  I’ve got some very basic physiotherapy exercises to do and will start the rehabilitation when the surgeon gives the all clear to get started.  I’ve also got an appointment with the pain specialist in October to discuss the plan forward from a pain management perspective, the pain clinic have been very clear the expectation is that surgery will improve my function but is very unlikely to make me pain free.  Regardless, I’m excited about the future and looking forward to getting on with the rehabilitation. Its going to be an interesting few months.

Turmeric tonic

I’m allergic to anti-inflammatories and aspirin which is annoying given my current health concerns. Several times I’ve been told turmeric is a good natural anti-inflammatory. I’ve taken it as tablets and eaten it in my curries; but to be honest I’ve not noticed much of a difference.

But I don’t give up easily, so I thought I’d try juicing it.

In the juicer: 2-3 lemons, a big chunk of ginger and some fresh turmeric. I probably used 7-8 bits. This makes a little bottle of concentrate which I’ve been drinking with hot water. It tastes quite nice, a bit earthy which is offset by the lemon and ginger.

I think I’ll take this for 2-3 weeks and then make a call on if it’s making a difference.

20140719-142100-51660922.jpg

20140719-142100-51660854.jpg

Ligamentous Laxity

The other day when finding out that I’d torn a ligament in my shoulder I asked my physiotherapist “What is with my joints?” “Why do I keep getting hurt so easily?”.  She said its because my ligaments are too lax.  I’ve had a few treatment providers tell me over the years that my ligaments are lax and/or my joints are very loose and I’ve never really understood what that meant until recently.

The biggest and most important piece of information I’ve learnt from talking to my physiotherapist is that to avoid injury I MUST exercise and stay strong.  Usually the ligaments hold the bones together and create stability in the joint.  Because my ligaments are lax, my muscles have to do the work for them. The reason why I’ve had so many issues this year is because I’ve been unable to exercise due to the hip pain, my rehabilitation programme ended and I wasn’t able to keep pushing through the pain by myself.  So I’ve lost a lot of strength and now my body is starting to fall apart!

I didn’t realise I had this problem until this year and it has been a big “ah ha” moment for me.  I understand now that yoga came too easily to me, I was doing things in my first month of yoga that take some people years of practice to achieve (I didn’t know this until speaking to my teacher earlier this year).  I understand that why the list of injuries from childhood to adulthood so very long; I’ve injured ankles, knees, hips, shoulders and wrists.  I also understand that my feet aren’t flat, the ligaments just don’t hold them up when I’m standing up.

But having lax ligaments has got to have some advantages:

  • I’ve got great range of movement (ROM) in my hip where most people with FAI and associated joint deterioration struggle with loosing ROM and get very stiff.  Not me.  I’ve lost some ROM, but I’d say its probably still better than the average.
  • I’ve not had to do any stretching as part of my physiotherapy and rehabilitation programme.
  • When I sprain my ankles the bone can hit the ground and my ligaments won’t tear.
  • Yoga can be easy.  This is a double edged advantage though as stretching is not good for people with lax ligaments (with the exception of hamstrings apparently).  When I return to the mat I will have to be very careful to practice strength over flexibility.  I’ll also have to learn how to use muscles better and to stop before my end range.
  • I was very good at the limbo when I was a kid.  And I can win that drinking game where you pick up a coin with your mouth without putting your hands/knees on the floor.
  • Sitting on the floor is very comfortable. And I can lie on my tummy (on the floor) and watch TV easily.

OK… I know I’m clutching at straws, it is not really an ideal situation but it is very manageable.  My plan is to get through this hip surgery and then focus on the return to exercise.  I’ll go back to yoga however it will be a practice that focuses on strength over flexibility.  I’ll also return to the gym, hopefully get back into boxing and spin classes.

Here are some photos of things I don’t think I’ll be doing again in any hurry: