This article on the Tune Up Fitness® Blog at tuneupfitness.com.
It’s ironic, I’ve lived with chronic pain for at least seven years…but didn’t know it.
A few months ago, I read the radiologist’s report of an MRI for my left hip. I had my hip scanned as I thought I had a torn labrum, but the imaging told a different story. Labrum (the cartilage rim on the edge of the cup side of the hip joint)? What labrum? The joint is decimated. It looks like someone went in with an ice pick and chipped, flaked, abraded, and destroyed my coxal (hip) joint.
Bone cysts, check.
Bone spurs, check.
My orthopedist further translated for me: I am a perfect candidate for total hip replacement.
Total? My hip will be totally replaced.
When my orthopedist did a standard range of motion test on me, he rolled my right hip around in the socket like it was a pinwheel in the breeze. My left hip traced a similar path, but was 20 percent less the range. He contemplated out loud…“Well, there’s your pre-existing condition right there.” We locked eyes and mouthed the word at the same time, “hypermobility.”
Inside my brain and body, I whisked through a timeline that scrolled through decades of dance, yoga, fitness, and all the things I did to stretch myself into exhilarated states or mental quiet. I started to confess to my surgeon my own self-diagnosis of “overuse,” but cut my monologue off. He’s the fixer, not the detective.
But the detector in me is now on a new mission to sift through the decades of my life and identify moments of crisis where I think my movement patterns, or my emotional patterns, pushed me to move to a threshold with such vehement regularity that I remodeled a hip that ultimately couldn’t survive the assault.
My therapist tried to stop me from further blaming myself for my condition, “Perhaps it’s genetic,” he said. “No one in my family has had their hips replaced. I built this city,” I insisted. My pre-existing genetic condition was to move and stretch myself compulsively to stifle the emotional stresses I felt as a constant in my body. I’m not enough, not perfect enough, not smart enough, not nice enough, not pretty enough, not worthy. My yoga and stretching could quiet me like a quart of bourbon could silence my ancestors. It could take off just enough of the edge to get by. But I was building a new edge. I built an irregular surface with organic stalagmites and stalactites that mismatched one another. New body teeth that chewed through synovial membranes—the gums and saliva of my hip joint. My need to grind out my frustration wore a new pattern of tread into a hip capsule made fragile by multiple ankle injuries in my teens and twenties. My pre-existing condition was a belief that I could do more, be more, and accomplish more if only I did more. More was more and I needed to move constantly upon that moor in order to survive my life.
When did I first feel the real pain? Somehow I was led to stop stretching myself from limb to limb around 2003/4. That was when I consciously named my work Yoga Tune Up® and pulled back on a practice of daily asana (yoga poses). I turned to anatomy texts instead of yogic texts for information. I started working on the particulars of my movements. I had to re-examine my addiction to stretching. My dependency on my yoga practice was shackling me to the mat and consuming up to two hours every morning—if I didn’t practice, I didn’t feel right in my skin. Going without my ritual left me feeling unhinged, irritable, and anxious. My need to stretch was no longer expanding my mind, it had trapped it.
Tune in for part 2 of this series, where I examine the mysterious behavior of chronic pain. I ponder how imaging, diagnosis, and embodied experience can often be completely out of step with one another.