Originally published in the Summer + Fall 2017 issue.
My hip hurt so much I couldn’t walk without tears. I had not been hit by a car, skied into a tree, or fallen down. In fact, I had no traumatic experience that could justify this incredible pain.
I went to the doc. and was told to get an X-ray; which was negative. So other than saying nothing was wrong, it supplied no answers what so ever … and it cost a bundle. Thus, I tried to ignore the pain and assumed it would just get better. After-all, the injury had just appeared out of nowhere, it could, I hoped, just disappear as suddenly.
I notice that many people “suffer” with their injuries month after month. They learn “modifications” or “work arounds” so that they can work out and pretend that they are taking care of themselves, when really, they are avoiding the shouting voice of pain.
We believe in our body’s innate ability to heal itself. We have proof: broken bones mend, we recover from intense workouts, and when we sprain our ankles, we learned at a young age to “walk it off.” The problem is we can heal, but with a new compensation pattern in place that can wreak havoc on the alignment and function of the rest of the body. Unfortunately, and fortunately, it is all connected.
Inflammation causes depression. The longer you put up with it the pain and inflammation, the more compensating, molding and modeling around the injury your body will create, thus increasing the dysfunction of your physicality and, bringing down along with it, your emotional and mental state.
All injuries are specific and unique, there is not just one cure-all. At the same time, you don’t have to recreate the wheel.
Step 1. Attention. Pay attention to your pain. Listen. Pain is telling you to do something differently. For example: examine your posture. In the case of hip pain: watch for “tucking your tailbone” which has become a popular cue in yoga classes. Unfortunately tucking your tailbone is detrimental to maintaining proper spinal alignment by flattening your low back curve, tightening your quadriceps, psoas, iliacus, and quadratus lumborum, and weakening or even turning off your glutes .
Step 2. Intention: Make a decision to heal your injuries. If you don’t who will? Create a healing attitude toward nurturing and curing your injury rather than being defiant, ignoring it, becoming a victim of it, or hoping it will just go away. Stop calling it your “bad hip.” Calling it your “bad hip” creates stagnant thought and keeps you in the pattern of pain and suffering. Change your mind. State to yourself and others that you are in the process of healing your hip. This alone opens the door of opportunity and healing.
Step 3. Action. Combine the use of tools such as foam rollers, balls, rubber bands, and kettlebells, with techniques used in physical therapy, massage therapy, personal training and yoga to release pain and realign. Self-myofascial release, PNF stretching, and strength exercises can take you far on the path towards healing. Drink plenty of filtered water and eat nutrient dense foods to get on the healing superhighway.
By using props such as balls and foam rollers one can encourage reorganization of one’s cellular matrix to improve communication, function and harmony. The self myofascial release techniques below claim to hydrate and re-train the muscular and nervous systems in order to improve alignment and performance.
Glide, Smash, Twist!
Gliding, smashing, and twisting self myofascial release techniques are best used after a workout or before bedtime. If you are in so much pain you can not work out, glide and smash daily. Aim to treat one body part per day for up to 10 minutes a day.
Impeccable posture is important in all of the techniques below. To start melting your hip pain, grab a lacrosse ball.
Roll the ball underneath your foot for a minute. During that minute identify two to three tight spots. Use the ball in each of these spots and roll side to side or in circles to create cross fiber friction. Aim for 3-6 minutes per foot.
According to Tom Myers, author of Anatomy Trains, the posterior anatomy train, called the “superficial back line,” is a continuous connection of musculature running from the sole of the foot, up the back of the body, over the skull to the eyebrows. By treating your feet, you can affect skeletal alignment, muscular function, organ function, and emotional harmony from the feet up!
Next, slowly roll up from your achilles to the back of your skull. As you slowly glide up the entire back side of your body to the base of your skull, lighten up the pressure underneath your low back and neck since those are spaces for which our aim is stability.
After warming up the tissue with two to three rolls from feet to the head, identify a few spots in one area, for example the lower leg. Press those spots into the foam roller and rotate your leg sided to side to create cross fiber friction for at least a minute per spot.
The next day it will serve you well to treat the front of your body with specific regard to your shins and upper thighs. Warm up your legs by foam rolling slowly from your feet to hips. Next, use a kettlebell, or a heavy medicine ball to smash your quads. Relax with your back against a wall and place the ball on the belly of your thigh muscles. Twist the ball into your leg as though it were a screw being driven into a board.
Contract your quadriceps. Breath deeply. Relax. Repeat. Treat three spots per leg.
Strengthen and Stabilize
Strengthen your weaknesses. We tend to like to do things we are good at. Instead, seek to strengthen where you weak. Weak tight hips lead to low back pain. After practicing hip mobility poses, work on stability.
Use tree pose to assess your strength and stability. Keep your sit bones level. Gently create space between your pelvis and femur. Keep your spine and pelvis in a neutral position, pelvic floor parallel to the ground. Use a wall for support if needed. Can you maintain a core contraction without rounding your low back, or posteriorly tilting your pelvis?
Strengthen your abs and hips in star pose /modified side plank.
Add intensity by performing leg circles in both directions, and lowering and lifting the top leg.
Improve hip and core strength with squat pulses. Place yourhands on the floor, or blocks to support your back and limit the range of motion. Drive your hips up and down by bending and straightening your knees while keeping your spine neutral. Don’t let your tailbone tuck under, your back excessively round or arch, or your knees fall in past your middle toes. Perform for 1 minute. Stand up tall to rest. Repeat x 5.
Banded walks: wrap a power cord or resistance band under your feet. Keep your core engaged as you take tiny steps forward, backward, left then right. Try to keep moving for two to four minutes.
Clam shells: open and close your legs in this position, work your way up to sets of 50.
Downward-facing dog with hip movement: knee to knee, knee out to the side, knee pressing towards ceiling (down, side, up).
Recovery: Spinal twist with deep breathing.
Sometimes you can’t do it all by yourself. Get yourself a team of folks to guide you. Helpful modalities to consider in your healing program include:
- Acupuncture: Stimulates your body’s innate ability to heal; can encourage pain relief, speed recovery and create physical and mental harmony.
- Physical therapy and massage therapy: Identifies which muscles are not functioning, aims to normalize soft tissue by treating adhesions and scar tissue, and improve range of motion to encouraging proper cellular modeling and repair. Improves fascial organization and posture.
- Nutrition: Nutrient dense foods encourage hydration and improve cellular function and recovery. Inflammatory foods can slow your ability to recover, and alter muscle and organ function which can express as muscular pain.
- Yoga: Encourages the practice of proper physical, spiritual and mental alignment. If you can’t afford public classes, there are several subscription-based yoga websites.
- Pilates: Offers a series of exercises specific to hip and core strength and stability. Find a teacher, or you tube it from home.
- Personal Training: Illuminates faulty movement patterns, identifies weaknesses, and provides coaching and exercises to increase stability, mobility, and mental strength to aid in better movement and body mechanics.
- Ice baths and hot saunas: Creates a vascular flush which improves immune and hormonal system functions, aids in the movement of stagnation and swelling, offers pain relief, and improves recovery. Our mountain rivers and lakes make for excellent ice baths!
I was able to demolish my hip pain using all of the techniques above and am back to running, hiking, biking and climbing pain free! Here are some resources that are very helpful and offer more in-depth information for self-treatment are listed below. Check out www.mobilitywod.com, which offers 2-10 minute daily videos. Each video addresses different injuries and mobility issues and guides you through a self-treatment session. The book The Melt Methodby Sue Hitzmann also demonstrates self-myofascial release techniques and offers several protocols for addressing pain using a foam roller or ball. For those about to rock, I salute you.
Photo by Amy Simper.