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Managing Osteo-Arthritis in the Hips

Posted by Susan R.

Dear Fellow Well-mates,

I wanted to share with you some ideas of dealing with osteo-arthritis in the hips—and trying to avoid hip replacement surgery, or at least delay it as long as possible.

I was formally diagnosed with OA in November 2004, although I had suspected for some time that arthritis was the cause of my troubles. For many years, I had played one or two hours of tennis a day but I was starting to be competitive and had increased my court time to three to five hours a day with spinning on the days when tennis was rained out. Starting in August 2004, I had started to suffer from low grade pain all day and all night, with no amount of rest able to stop the pain. When my orthopedic surgeon ran through the options, he pushed hard for physiotherapy as a first step. Non-stop pain-killers, steroid injections under an x-ray, his replacement surgery all sounded less attractive than PT.

After two months of PT twice a week, the pain had subsided and I went off to India to play tennis for four hours a day for a week. The tennis was wonderful but still painful and I decided to take a break and let the PT do its full job.

Two years have come and gone. I have traveled to many countries—Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Dubai, Bahrain, Oman, Mexico and more. The snow on cobblestones hurt me in some places. In others, it was just the uneven payment beneath my feet. My core strength has increased dramatically and the PT has given my washboard abs—better than I thought any 54-year-old woman could develop. My butt has become flat and lost the indent from weak muscles. I found a personal yoga instructor who showed me how to do the stretches in ways that do not injure me and now I do at least two hours a day of stretching and strengthening. My plan now is to learn how to surf. (I rented a beach house in La Jolla Shores in southern California. On my vacation, I watch the surfers carve the waves, wanting to be one of them.) And just maybe, I can play tennis again.

So what has worked best for me? Here are my tips.

· Finding a physio-therapist who is used to working with professional athletes and dancers.

· Doing all the PT stretches once a day religiously before I go to work and then a shortened set of stretches plus the strengthening exercises in the evening before going to bed.

· Using music, mirrors (in gyms) or downloaded radio news (at home) to distract me during the hours required to stretch and strengthen.

· Adding specific yoga stretches to my workout.

· Taking the approach of sneaking up on my body. I monitor my workouts and limit the increase in length to no more then 10 percent more than the last workout (even when I am feeling great and want to do more.)

Here’s more:

· Warrior I and II force my hips to rotate without pulling on my knees (but I have to keep the bent knee over the 2nd-3rd toes of the planted foot.)

· Cobra opens my chest and surprisingly releases the pull on my knees.

· Bridge engages the Ilio Psoas (which otherwise gets irritated by my arthritic hips). To make this work, I have to do the bridge without engaging the gluts as follows: (1) breathe in, (2) raise the core while breathing out and feeling the Ilio Psoas kick in, (3) breathe in, (4) lower the core while breathing out.

· Self-massage of the IT Band (taking your knuckles down the line of the IT Band) helps to release more tension from the knee.

The bridge and cobra were recommended by my PT who described the process as turning on what should be turned on, turning off what should be turned off.

Massages of the Ilio Psoas would also be helpful but I cannot do it myself and it is hard to find therapists who know how to get in and massage such deep muscles.

So far all is working. My orthopedic surgeon says that I now have “normal” levels of flexibility, but then adds “normal for a stiff person.” The next stage will be to achieve normal levels for an average person--and, yes, learning how to hang-ten on a southern California wave. In the meantime, I added some rotational core exercises with a pilates-ring to see if tennis (maybe competitive tennis) can once again be in my future.

What are you finding that works?


Comments (1)
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I have severe chronic pain in my lower back but also butcher knife pain in my hip. Doctors can't find out what that is but I do have osteo arthritis in both hips which in turn is narrowing my hips. I am an avid surfer in PB and I walk between 1 1/2 miles to 5 miles  6 days a week. At night I lift small weights with my arms and legs.

I have been on Vicoden and 600 IB profin at the same time. Now they uped my meds to percocet.

If you have any ideas for me it would be much appreciated as I broke my neck and my back and have crushed one disc down 50%. I have lost three inches since my accident and have other things including a mass on my spine. I am miserable most days. But keep on exercising.

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