Two Months of Physical Therapy and One Cortisone Shot Later
Posted June 16, 2013on:
When we last left off, I’d just been diagnosed with hip bursitis. Finally knowing what was wrong with me after having been in pain for six months, I felt relieved, hopeful, and optimistic.
This was two months ago. I’d gone to the doctor, he told me I had hip bursitis, and said I had some choices:
1) I could get a cortisone shot right away
2) I could go to physical therapy
3) I could go to physical therapy for a month and if my hip didn’t feel better after that, then I could get a cortisone shot
He inserted the caveat that most people aren’t responsive to physical therapy for this condition, but it was up to me what I wanted to do. Also, he said that sometimes one cortisone shot completely relieves the pain, but sometimes a second one is necessary. However, two is really the max you can get and if that doesn’t work then you’re just barking up the wrong tree (pose) and need to start looking into if something else is wrong.
Regardless, it seemed totally possible that through some course of treatment, I would be able to be pain-free, regain my full range of motion which had been severely limited by the bursitis, and go back to yoga, resuming my normal practice.
Not wanting to jump right to the cortisone shot without trying other alternatives, I opted for physical therapy for a month, after which I would evaluate how I felt and decide if I wanted to get a shot.
After not being able to practice yoga consistently for months, the moving and stretching in PT felt great. It started out as very gentle strengthening and stretching exercises. Also, being stretched out by the physical therapist, I discovered that having someone else stretch you is like the greatest thing ever — you get to enjoy the juicy stretching sensation without having to exert any effort whatsoever to hold it there.
I thought it would go on like this forever — a gentle stretch here, an easy bridge pose there — but soon, things got harder. Through PT is was revealed that although I’ve been doing yoga for 15 years, I have a very weak core. Having a weak core means I can’t properly hold myself up, so things compress and put undo pressure on my hip. PT then went from gentle stretching to hardcore core workouts, with long holds in forearm plank becoming a staple of my routine.
But after one month of stretching, strengthening, and core work, my hip was not showing big signs of improvement — some days it felt better, some days it felt worse, but it always felt painful. At my follow-up doctor appointment, I decided to hold off on the cortisone shot for one more month. I figured that it had taken my body a long time to develop this injury, and I wasn’t going to fix all my misalignment and build up all that strength in just one month.
After the second month though, I still felt daily pain and decided to give the shot a shot. My doctor cautioned that it might feel worse for one or two days, but then would feel better.
Humph, that was it? I thought when I got home after getting my shot, thinking I was in the clear. It really didn’t hurt much at all.
The next morning, I woke up in excruciating pain, worse than any I had ever experienced throughout the entire duration of this injury. Grateful that the doctor had warned me, I knew not to freak out and that I was having a totally normal reaction to it and that this too shall pass.
On Day One, every step I took was painful. Not only was I limping, but I had to hold onto desks, tables, and chairs in order to sit down or stand up, take stairs one at a time, and ask someone to let me sit in a seat on the crowded rush hour subway because it hurt too much to stand.
Day Two was noticeably better but still noticeably painful.
But on Day Three, I felt NO PAIN. For the first time in almost nine months, I was pain-free! Having this injury, I’ve come to automatically limit my range of motion to avoid painful positions, so I was cautious and didn’t try to do anything that I thought might hurt, like sitting cross-legged or bending my right knee in too much. Even with my limited range of motion, I still got the sense that all the pain was gone, which was amazing after having become accustomed to daily pain for so long.
At my final physical therapy session, I reported the exciting news — no pain! — and they gave me program of exercises to continue on my own at home, and a t-shirt as my PT graduation gift.
A week later I started to feel some soreness — not the sharp pain I’d had before, just a little tenderness. It wasn’t bad though, and I’d been given the OK to go back to yoga, so I picked a gentle-looking class that was partially restorative that I wanted to take, and eagerly anticipated my return to yoga.
That day I ran into my neighbor who’s a massage therapist at a physical therapy facility. I’ve been giving him updates about my bursitis, and told him about my plan to go back to yoga.
He suggested that I try Pilates instead, and told me about the studio he went to that he loved. A former yogi, after having done Pilates at the studio for a while he said he took a yoga class there that a classmate recommended.
“You know what I thought of it?” he asked. “Barbaric!”
Unrolling my mat for the first time in months at the restorative class that night, I thought that yoga and I would have a joyful reunion, skipping towards each other with open arms. I thought I’d take things slow, pay attention to how I felt, and back off and modify a few poses if they hurt. I thought I’d be able to do almost everything, and possibly even be able to sit in a cross-legged seat at the beginning and end of class.
This was not what happened.
Almost everything hurt. I had to modify a ton, back off a lot, flat-out not even do some poses at all. And this was a restorative class.
Trying to make it through class, feeling sharp, shooting pain if I moved too much this way or bent too much that way, I wanted to cry. I’d hoped that I’d be able to — maybe slowly but eventually — go back to my beloved yoga practice as I knew it. I thought that the cortisone shot would be the solution, would bring the healing that would allow me to return to my pre-pain ways.
Sitting cross-legged with my knees bent up to my chest instead of resting comfortably on the ground, my eyes welled up. Poses that were easy for the rest of the students were impossible for me, and every position was a reminder of things I used to be able to do but couldn’t do anymore.
When I got home that night I texted my neighbor, “Took a restorative yoga class tonight: Barbaric.”
After two months of physical therapy exercises which were simple, precise, and alignment-focused, yoga, even a restorative class, seemed too fast-paced and full of coarse, all-over-the-place movements. It hurt during class, and left me afterwards with pain I still feel a few days later.
Despite what I’d hoped for, I hadn’t found the solution, experienced the fix. I had to go back to the drawing board.
I feel so disappointed that my pain isn’t gone, that I can’t yet return to life — and yoga — as usual. But I still feel hopeful that one day I will be able to be pain-free; it just might take longer and look different than I’d initially thought.
Even though I graduated from physical therapy last week, I’m going to call to make another appointment this week. I’m going to get the second cortisone shot that I hoped I wouldn’t need. I’m going to be as diligent as I can with doing my ongoing physical therapy exercises at home. I’m going to take yoga off the table for the foreseeable future to prioritize healing my hip bursitis. And once this post-yoga class pain in my hip calms down, I’m going to check out that Pilates studio that my neighbor recommended.
It makes me sad to think of giving up yoga, for now at least, as it’s brought me so much healing, serenity, and happiness for the past 15 years, and been such a big part of my identity. But being in so much pain, I didn’t even enjoy the class I took the other day, and I know that right now, my body needs something else. So for the time being, I just might become NotSoZen PilatesJen.