Lessons Learned From An Achey-Breaky Hip

This summer I had some discomfort in my leg, lower back and hip. It wasn’t really painful, but bothersome when driving, walking or trying to sleep on my side. Then, one Saturday, part of my leg went numb, scaring the bejeebers out of me.

I expected the worst – a pinched nerve with a long recovery and lifting restrictions. How can you be a stay-at-home mama and not be able to lift the kids?

An urgent care and chiropractic visit later, I received a diagnosis. Imagine my surprise and joy – yes JOY – to receive news that it wasn’t my back at all. Rather, the numbness is caused by Trochanteric bursitis. A much better recovery and outlook than a spinal injury.

Wait a minute.

Isn’t hip bursitis for old people?

Apparently not. And I should have recognized the symptoms, because I’ve had it not once, but twice before. Numbness, however, was a new symptom and an indication of increasing severity.

I spent much of the summer in recovery. Less walking. No running. Lots of ice. Stretching. Yoga. And more stretching.

Bursitis forced me to slow down. A LOT.

More time for thinking…and for looking for the bright side of things.

1. Tolerating pain is not always a good thing

Our culture demands toughness. A high pain tolerance and the ability to continue through pain is considered a badge of honor. However, when it comes to my hip, tolerance for pain is nothing but detrimental. Carrying on while ignoring discomfort simple causes more damage. As I ‘muscled’ through it, inflammation increased to the point of pressing on a nerve, causing numbness. With bursitis, such negligence leads to permanent damage, cortisone shots, and eventual hip replacement. This has been a good reminder that I only have one body and need to be more aware of what it is telling me.

2. Not all exercise is created equal

A person with a history of bursitis CAN run and walk for exercise, but must have increased attentiveness to stretching and flexibility. Other exercises like yoga and swimming are a better option. Time to mix it up a bit.

3. Accepting help is not my strong suit

Before we knew what was wrong, my husband and mom stepped in to help with lifting. When my mom offered to go to the grocery with me, I wondered, Why? Grocery shopping seemed pretty tame. But when paying attention to what I wa doing, I was surprised by how much a back is used while grocery shopping – bending, stretching, reaching, lifting and pushing. I was especially grateful as she lifted our daughter in and out of the cart and car seat,  as she helped our son climb in and out of the cart, and as she helped lift bags into the car and into the house. While it was hard for me to admit I needed help with what seemed to be simple things, the help was invaluable and appreciated. Asking for help is less about admitting weakness and more about exercising wisdom.

4. Doing less requires creativity and patience

When you can’t lift, you need to be creative. Convincing our children to climb the stairs at night sometimes requires us to make a game of it. We discovered our son can climb into the cart if we park by the cart rack. He can climb up the metal rack into the cart. Our daughter can climb out of her car seat on her own if I unbuckle her and wait an extra minute or two. It may be faster to carry them, but it sure isn’t easy on the body if you’re trying to heal.

5. Numbness was a blessing and warning

As I mentioned before, I was generally ignoring my symptoms before my leg went numb. I may not have saught help if my leg had not gone numb, and would have caused further damage. The numbness warns of future escalation if I’m not careful to pay attention and to keep stretching. It caused realization of a growing problem and supplied enough healthy fear to make me seek help. Right away.

6. Persistance matters

Even when I feel good, I need to stretch and do the preventative exercises. Routine. Stretching takes time and I now have to be intentional to make time to do it. The IT band exercise pulverization with a foam roller hurts. I feel bruised afterwards. But it has a drastic effect on hip pain and discomfort. Whether I like it or not, it is effective and is required in my daily routine from here on out. When I am consistent in stretching and rolling – I feel great and can walk, jog and lift as I please. WORTH it.

7. Knowledge is power

My chiropractor wanted to know if our family has a history of hip replacements (we don’t). Know what I don’t want to think about at 33? Bursitis and hip replacements. But I DO want to know about something that can be prevented by changing my lifestyle NOW. After the first 2 rounds of bursitis, I should have permanently incorporated stretching in BOTH legs. But when I felt good, I slacked off and ended up paying for it with a numb leg and forced rest. Honestly, I needed some tough love and to have someone explain to me the long-term hard truth. I am grateful for a very honest chiropractor who was willing to be clear that neglect will have lasting consequences.

8. I’m grateful

NO matter how annoying it was to have numbness, limited movement, and to make extra time to stretch, I am so grateful the problem was just bursitis. A back injury would have been much worse. This experience has added self discipline into more than just one area of my life. It makes me get out of bed so I have time to stretch before the kids get up. Plus, since I now start my day on the floor stretching, it gives me time to read my bible and pray before I get up. What else am I going to do down there on the floor? I am grateful to know what the problem is, and how to prevent further flare-ups. And I’m grateful that all the stretching and slow moving this summer has paid off with a pain-free hip this fall.

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5 thoughts on “Lessons Learned From An Achey-Breaky Hip

  1. I’m glad it turned out to be something not too bad. I also recently found out I have bursitis in my elbows! I thought it was only for older people too. Mine is due to the way I sit while subbing in the classroom.

    • Isn’t it strange how we have perception of things and then we find out we were wrong? I’m sorry you have bursitis too – I’ve never heard of it in the elbows and imagine it take a lot of rest and ice as well. No fun. Praying for you and a speedy recovey.

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