Wednesday, June 25, 2014

It's the Little Things

It's  true that expression is way overused. But it can be so true. On the one hand, I have a very BIG excitement as with every day I have less pain in my hip, and more facility of movement. Sometimes it wells up inside me with such a powerful force, I feel as if I could explode with the joy of it all. The poignant side is to realize each day with more clarity how really tied down I was, how impinged the movement of my legs was. 

Rooftop terrace Sayulita, Mexico.
This photo was taken in February of this year, on our Mexican holiday. We were lucky to have this terrace over our beach apartment, where we practiced yoga every morning. When doing Warrior 2 before arthritis started showing up in my hips, my feet were wide enough to bring my thigh parallel to the ground. It is strange and uncomfortable, to feel your muscles get tighter, no matter how soft you visualize them, or how often you stretch them. It feels so big and wonderful to be on the other side. To feel my hip joints releasing and opening. 

It's the small details that are somehow the most profound, the most telling. Here's a list of little things that give me so much joy these days:

1. I can sit cross-legged again.
For as long as I can remember, I have been a floor sitter. I eschew chairs, and sit cross legged on the carpet. But as my right (the first to go) hip got more and more and more painful, I had to sit with my left leg tucked under, and right extended. It was a big deal to arrive again at sitting cross legged after the first surgery, but it quickly retreated as the left hip descended into pain. Now I can sit up straight, legs crossed!! I'm still a little stiff in the left hip, but it's getting better all the time. In fact, this morning I crossed my right leg over into half lotus. It's like finding a piece of myself that was lost. 

2. I can walk in the woods.
With losing the range of motion in my legs, and pain in every step, walking in the woods with my dog(s) became a chore. I began to stick to the flat, as it's tough to step over logs with tight inner thigh muscles restricting the movement of the legs. The fear of pain makes it tough to jump down off rocks or slide down a hill. I feel so much more at ease now, walking deer trails and hilly terrain, hugging huge trees. I am still cautious of falling, and weak in my legs. Even so walking is such a rediscovered joy! 

3. I can ride my bike.
First my right, then my left hip, would pinch at the front when I rode my bicycle. Raising my seat helped a little, but gave me less pedalling power. My right knee used to turn outward, and the heel inward to bang against the frame of the bike. Now I can ride pain free, though just like for hiking, my legs are weak. But they keep getting stronger. 

4. I can skip!
I'm not sure if it was the pain, or the lack of cartilage in my hip(s) or both, but I've been grounded for years. With hip pain, you can't run for a bus, and you can't 'Skip to My Lou.' I was trying to show my step-daughter the can can a few months ago, and couldn't bounce. But the other day, I was in a group of dancers and without thinking, I started skipping...and laughed out loud! So joyous to be able to do that simple movement.

5. I can shake my booty!!
I was in the kitchen cooking the other day, and started dancing. Maybe it was the pelvis circles I'd done with my yoga class the day before, or maybe my hips were just ready to move, but I started to boogy like I haven't for some time. The hip pain prevented me from shifting my hips side to side. I did my best to take the opportunity to be more expressive with my arms, torso and head, but it sure is awesome to be able to shake it again.

6. I can (almost) Cartwheel!!!
I haven't tried yet. But soon. Once my hip doesn't hurt. Once my muscles are longer and stronger, I'm going to work up to a Cartwheel. That will be the true sign that I am back on my...hands?

Today's Quote: “Dance, when you're broken open. Dance, if you've torn the bandage off. Dance in the middle of the fighting. Dance in your blood. Dance when you're perfectly free.” ― Rumi

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Last Physio Visit

I was just about at the three month mark when I went to see the physio. He invited me into the big room with the mirror and watched me walk up and down a bunch. He said my gait had improved 'dramatically'. It seems that like my yoga practice, and the physio exercises I've been incorporating have paid off. The exercises I've been doing are:

1. Little Bridge
Lie on your back, arms at your sides. Slide your feet on the floor towards your head until they are under your knees, hip width apart. Squeeze your  glutes to raise the hips, stopping when there is a straight line from knees to shoulders. Hold for 20 - 30 seconds, then lower slowly. Try to bring the two hips to the floor at the same time. This works Hamstrings, Glutes and Core.

2. One Legged Bridge
Go up into the bridge, then lift one foot a few inches off the floor. Hold for a few seconds, then put it down and lift the other. It helps to put the hands on the hipbones, so you can feel if they are level.
An excellent exercise for Core Stability.

3. Leg Extension.
Lying on my back with my thigh over a bolster or block, I extend the leg to straighten the knee, hold it for a few seconds, then lower my foot. This strengthens the quads.

4. Clamshell
Lie on your back, knees bent, then roll onto the unoperated side. Feet should be in line with hips, knees bent at 90 degrees, head supported by the arm. Put the other hand on your upper hip as a reference. Without moving your hips, lift the top knee away from the bottom one. Eventually you can wrap do the same exercise with a Dynaband. This works the Gluteus Medius and Maximus.

I've also been doing my best to walk with my feet parallel, and my pelvis tucked under. Sounds like it's working...but maybe too well.

The "Bad" News
John says that I've changed my movement patterns so drastically, that I can't stretch yet. He advised me to let the muscles, bones, and fascia settle into their new places before moving on to lengthening my hamstrings, and softening my tight hip muscles. Sigh.

On the Other Hand...
On the good side, he said that by August 1st, no one will be able to tell by looking at me what I've been through. John gave me my walking papers. He says there's nothing else he can do for me.

Moving Forward
Already I am getting comments on how well I walk. What I really care about, is that the pain is dissipating. I can lie on my operated side. In fact I can sleep in any position I like these days, which is so exciting! 

I so appreciate being able to move more freely. I am mostly keeping my restrictions, but not too strictly. Pun intended. I have been told more than once by friends that I walk very differently than I did. I really didn't know how much I limped, how ungainly my walking pattern looked to others. I only really see it, see myself moving in my mind's eye, now that it's over. I am so blessed. 

Today's Quote: “You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestation of your own blessings.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert

Monday, June 2, 2014


I am almost at the three month mark, and have been getting a bit concerned about my hip. I don't remember this much pain, and it seems that there is more swelling that there should be at this point. At least that's how I was feeling a week ago. I had started to wonder about dislocation.

I called the surgeon's office yesterday to make an appointment for my next check up. After I saw him at six weeks, he'd asked to see me again in 2 months, rather than in another 6 weeks. So, I spoke to the orthopaedic nurse to ask about whether I can start moving again, as my 3 months of restrictions will be up before I see him.

She said I can lift some restrictions, not all. That I can ditch the tall toilet seat and the cushion. I didn't tell her that I haven't been using either for a couple of weeks. My physio said it's 'torsion' that I need to avoid, to keep the hip healing well. I think that's the painful feeling in my hip that comes from pushing up with my left foot after sitting on a low seat. I always only push up to standing with my right, and keep my left leg extended on the way down and up.

It's partly due to that bit of disobedience, and partly because of the pain and swelling in my hip, that I have been wondering about dislocation. I was worrying that it could be gradual, that my greater trochanter was slowly moving out of my hip socket, causing the swelling and pain. A bit scary, as the surgeon has been pretty dire about dislocation, its attendant pain, and going back under the knife.

So I looked up dislocation after THR on the net. The information I found was very reassuring. What a wonderful resource we have at our fingertips! Turns out that's not what happens. If my hip were dislocated I'd be in excruciating pain and not be able to walk. Phew!

The nurse said I can expect some swelling and pain, along with various pops and snaps, for up to a year. She said I can start stretching, but gently. Hurray!

Today's quote: If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude. ~ Maya Angelou  (RIP Ms. Angelou...)