NotSoZen YogaJen

Archive for the ‘Injury & Rehabilitation’ Category

Me and my yoga mat after restorative yoga class

This is me after class, with my yoga mat over my shoulder.

On Thursday, my physical therapist cleared me for restorative yoga.

This has happened at least three times since the beginning of this year — my hip will start to feel a little better (I’ve had a hip injury for a year and a half and was diagnosed with a labral tear in my right hip last August), my physical therapist will say I can go to restorative yoga that week, and then before I can make it to a class, my hip will flare up again. So I have to take my PT exercise routine down a notch, slowly add back the more challenging exercises once my hip pain has calmed down, and make sure I’m OK doing those exercises consistently. Only then am I cleared again to go to yoga, at which point my hip flares up before I can make it to class.

On Thursday, my physical therapist said, again, that I could go to restorative yoga.

“Go tomorrow!” he said.

I’d been scanning yoga schedules for restorative classes so I’d be ready when this day came, and picked a Saturday evening class at a studio in Manhattan.

Technically, I haven’t been to a yoga class since last spring, when I tried a restorative class after having gotten a cortisone shot. But it feels like it’s been a lot longer because that one doesn’t even really count. It was labeled as a restorative class but it was pretty active, and focused on hip poses — they very thing I can’t do.

When I explained my injury to the teacher before class and said I might need some modifications, she hurriedly brushed me off, saying that I should be taking a private session instead, and she didn’t offer help or alternative poses during class. I could hardly do any of the poses, and was in pain afterwards.

I haven’t been to a yoga class since. And I haven’t been able to practice consistently, and without pain, since I got injured a year and a half ago.

This weekend I had a completely different experience.

Before class, I went up to the teacher and told her I had a labral tear and tendonosis in my right hip. I said that this was my first yoga class in a year, and I may have to modify things.

She told me that she had labral tears in both hips (!), and we talked a bit about this type of injury before class even started.

As opposed to the class I took last year, this restorative class actually was restorative, and involved a lot of props, holding simple poses, and relaxing. Throughout the class the teacher was very attentive, suggesting things I should or shouldn’t do, helping set up props to make my hips more stable, and making sure poses felt OK for me.

Being in a dark, candle-lit yoga studio, doing familiar poses, felt…joyful. And peaceful. Slowing down, taking deep breaths, chanting “Om,” being quiet and meditative and reflective.

But it was also a little sad. Remembering the way I used to practice yoga, the things I used to be able to do, the way I used to be able to move. And thinking about all the poses, like pigeon (which I loved) and headstand (which I hated), that I might never be able to do again. Being in that room was old and familiar, but also different and new.

Afterwards, I spoke to the teacher more and she was really helpful, sharing her experiences with her injuries and recovery process.

It was the perfect first yoga class for me to go back to — slow-paced and gentle, with a knowledgeable teacher who knew firsthand what I was going through.

Walking out onto the street, my yoga mat slung over my shoulder, I felt great. The class hadn’t exacerbated my pain, and it was something I could go back to. To begin my yoga practice again in this new way, that’s very different, but also kind of the same.

And an update since my last post in October

Shortly after I wrote that post, a coworker referred me to a physical therapist who specializes in hip pain whom I’ve been going to ever since, and building up my strengthening PT exercise routine. I was introduced to the foam roller. And I love it! I bought a giant ice pack.

After a few times, I stopped going to the basics Pilates class in the fall because my hip pain was often flared up. At the beginning of this year I was able to go back to Pilates and can make it to my weekly class pretty consistently now.

I’ve tried acupuncture which was recommended but it flared up my pain. I got two massages and one was fine and the other flared up my hip. Last September I tried going to a chiropractor who used Active Release Technique which also flared up my pain. So for the moment I’m staying away from soft tissue work and sticking to PT, Pilates, and now restorative yoga, too.

I read in a comment on this blog post that someone with a labral tear cut out wheat and sugar and felt better, and I was vaguely aware of having heard or read that gluten is inflammatory, so it makes sense that not eating it would help. A week ago I started an experiment of cutting back on gluten and sugar to see if that will make a difference.

At the beginning of last week I had two almost pain-free days where I could go through the day without an awareness of my hip. This felt amazing, and light. It reminded me how draining — physically, mentally, and emotionally — chronic pain is, and what a weight is lifted when it’s not there.

Towards the end of the week, the pain came back. Right now my hips hurt — I am definitely aware of them — and I still have some degree of pain more often than not. But I’m going to foam roll, do my PT routine, and ice while I watch The Big Bang Theory. This morning I went to my regular Pilates class. And last night I went to my first yoga class in a year.

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F train

I can’t run to catch you anymore, F train!

After a year of hip pain, and four months of treatment for a misdiagnosed condition, I went to a new doctor and was finally accurately diagnosed with a labral tear in my right hip. I was gearing up to start treatment for my correct condition — scheduling appointments, calling my insurance company — but over the past few weeks my pain has gotten worse, so last week I went in for a check-up with my new doctor.

My right hip pain has been flaring up and my range of motion, which had been improving, has become more limited again. Also, I’ve been experiencing pain in the form of tightness and a burning sensation in my right calf (a side effect of having this injury is that it’s increased my vocabulary for describing pain, having had to repeatedly answer questions about my pain level and sensation — on a scale of 1 to 10, what is your pain level today? Is it dull? Numb? Aching? Burning? Throbbing? Stinging? Sharp and/or shooting?).

My doctor prescribed another MRI to see if something else is going on that’s causing my pain, in addition to the labral tear and tendonosis. So that’s my next step, and once I get those results, they will help determine how I should proceed with treatment.

In the meantime, I’ve been thinking about what I can and can’t do, having this injury. Not able to go to yoga now, I keep having flashbacks to a yoga class I took in the summer of 2011. I remember thinking during that class, as the sun streamed through the window, how grateful I was to be able to be doing yoga, sweating and happy and moving my body. I remember not taking it for granted, and actually fully appreciating that moment.

There were countless other times I took yoga classes for granted, assuming I’d always be able to go to challenging, vigorous, sweaty, mind-clearing classes. But I’m glad that I consciously appreciated at least one class. And I hope that one day I’ll be able to get back to yoga, and I know that I won’t take it for granted then.

These days, my injury flares up and calms down, is sometimes better and sometimes worse. But I haven’t had a treatment that has made it get better yet (although now that I have the correct diagnosis and will be getting more information from a second MRI, hopefully I will soon). So I’ve had to make adjustments to what I’m able to do, taking into account my current limitations.

Things I Can’t Do With My Injury

  • Practice yoga. Any kind of yoga. Not even restorative.
  • Put on pants without pain — it hits the edge of my range of motion
  • Consistently walk without pain and an awareness of my hip. Some days I don’t notice it much, but other days I feel pain with every step I take.
  • Get into and out of bed without thinking about it. I have to mindfully sit down on my bed, swing my legs up, and then lie down.
  • Sleep on my right side
  • Wear heels. Well, I can, and sometimes do, but the repercussions last for days.
  • Wear flip-flops. I can wear them around my apartment for short periods of time, but if I wear them to walk somewhere outside, my foot starts hurting, and sometimes my calf pain feels worse. This may or may not be related to my hip issue. It could be a totally separate foot issue. But still, flip-flops = pain.
  • Lift heavy things over my head, i.e. putting my suitcase on the overhead rack on the train. I now have to ask for/accept help. Frequently.
  • Plunk down in chairs. That’s what pretty much started this injury in the first place. I have to be careful when I sit down and do it softly and slowly.
  • Sit cross-legged in a meditative position. My right knee points straight up and can’t relax down to the ground like it used to in days of yore.
  • Meditate. OK, technically I could find another position to mediate in besides sitting cross-legged on the floor, but mediating in that position is Pavlovian for me and I’m being stubborn and refusing to mediate any other way.
  • Sit in my favorite writing/talking on the phone position, in my chair with my right leg tucked in
  • Sit on the floor/ground. I went to a concert in the park this summer and was in pain for two days afterwards. I can sit on the floor with my legs tucked under me for about 10 minutes, at which point I have to stand up and search for a chair.
  • Run to catch the subway
  • Walk fast or rush in general

Things I Can Do With My Injury

  • Pilates. A super-basic beginner class where all the students have injuries. Except when my pain is flaring up, I skip this, too.
  • Physical therapy exercises — gentle strengthening and stretching. Although I stopped PT a few months ago when I wasn’t getting better and then discovered that I’d been incorrectly diagnosed so it wasn’t addressing what I actually had. Once I get the results from my second MRI I want to go back to PT, to treat my actual condition this time.
  • Sleep on my left side
  • Slow down. I usually don’t like doing this but it’s probably good for me, on a mental/emotional/spiritual level as well as physical.
  • Get better at asking for/accepting help
  • Connect with other people who are going through/have gone through similar things, and feel better mentally and emotionally as a result
  • Practice taking good care of myself and paying attention to how I feel
  • Ask questions, get information, trust myself, advocate for myself, and make good decisions
  • Feel jealous — so jealous — of people who casually, effortlessly, pain-free-ly swing their legs into a cross-legged position
  • Stay hopeful

Things I’m Not Sure About

  • Given my range of motion limitations, I’m pretty sure that getting a bikini wax would be challenging and even more uncomfortable than it already is
  • Sex is N/A at this point but I’m kind of curious if/how it will work if/when I meet someone I want to have sex with

Other/Misc.

On a side note, I went away this weekend. I left my busy life in Brooklyn and Manhattan, and traveled upstate to a country-esque setting (and on the train I had to ask multiple people to lift my suitcase onto the overhead rack and take it down). When I got back, I realized that although my hip still hurt, it was a lot better, and I had no pain in my calf.

This crystallized my realization that New York City living is tough when you have an injury. Commuting every day on packed subway, I often have to stand the whole way, tensing my body, surrounded by people squished into me. On top of that, people push and shove getting onto and off of the train, flailing their bags and bodies against my hip.

I have to pound the pavement walking to and from work, often in shoes that, even if they aren’t heels, aren’t properly supportive. I have to rush, dodge, brace, swerve, twist, and turn to navigate my daily route.

Upstate this weekend, I wore sneakers. I didn’t have to walk that far. And when I did, most of the time it was across soft, gentle grassy earth.

While I have no plans to give up city living for my injury anytime soon, I’m noticing just how hard the New York City hustle and bustle is on my body, and that there’s a cost to my joints. But at least for now, I can minimize this by doing a few things off my “Can Do” List — like paying attention and slowing way down.

If you have an injury, what can and can’t YOU do? How do you feel about having limitations? What simple activities do you no longer take for granted that you used to? Share your experiences in the comments!