Category Archives: Health

Fixing my hip

This column started many years ago when I published a local weekly newspaper and has been dwindling in frequency since my “retirement” from the news business five years ago. As I look back over recent years, I see that many of the articles deal with some of the health challenges I have faced. This is another of those.

Since I am now 62, some of this is not unexpected, due to the poor care I took of my body over the years. In 2009, I had a stent placed in my heart and in late 2011 I had a ruptured achilles tendon repaired, which led to many complications (both physical and mental) when the surgical wound did not heal properly.

I write about these things because I have found that the Internet has been of great value to me when dealing with my own health issues. If my experience can be of help to anyone facing similar issues then in a small way I am paying back.

Doctors are great when you get to the point of needing surgery, but I have not found them so good at diagnosing and treating a problem before it gets acute. My hip is a case in point. I started to have pain on the right side of my right hip well over two years ago. I mainly felt the pain at night when I slept on that side, which I am wont to do.

After googling around my first thought was that I had bursitis, an inflammation of the bursa. After a couple of steroid shots failed to improve the situation I had a hip X-ray to check for arthritis. When the doctor saw the films he asked me if my left hip hurt as well. When I told him “no”  he said, “that’s funny because the arthritis is worse on the left side.”

He then prescribed a course of Naproxen, a stronger version of the OTC drug Aleve to “calm the inflammation down.” The drug did relieve my pain, however, after about 6 months I started experiencing sharp pains in my stomach, even though I was following directions to only take it with food.

At first I didn’t know what was wrong with me and even feared it might be a recurrence of heart problems. I even took for the first time some of the nitroglycerine they had given me when I had my stent placed. When the nitro had no noticeable affect, I concluded it must be something else.

Stopping the pills cleared up the stomach problem within a week, but then the hip pain returned with a vengeance! This past Fall it began to be a real problem. I began to spend more time on the couch avoiding normal activities because of the pain. It got so bad that I spent one entire weekend on the couch doing nothing, nothing but googling that is.

A statement I found online that most people who have hip pain have underdeveloped butts got me to thinking. I am one of those who suffers from the heartbreak of smallbuttitis. I am a person that really should wear suspenders at all times, since there is really nothing there to hang a belt on.

I think the problem is at least partly genetic since some of my daughters have complained about me passing down this defective gene. When looking in the mirror I also noticed that I had let my posture get out of whack and was leaning forward when I walked instead of standing upright. In other words I was walking just like the Old Farmer that I am.

The real culprit, however, turned out to be another pain that I have been suffering from even longer than the hip– a pain on the inside of my right thigh in the adductor magnus muscle. The pain was pretty much chronic although it varied in severity from mild to strong.

I had mentioned this pain to an assortment of doctors, therapists and chiropractors but no one ever made the connection between that and the hip pain, or suggested how to fix it. Finally I ran across a video showing me a simple procedure to loosen up that major muscle. Essentially it involves doing a very deep massage on the muscle by balancing all your weight on that muscle by rolling on a medicine ball.

When I first tried this, the pain was so great that I could barely stand it. It also surprised me that the most painful part of the muscle was down near the knee, well below where I was feeling most of the pain.

After a few weeks of working that muscle, the pain in both the adductor and in my hip began to ease. I then began a regular weight training program, concentrating on increasing the strength of my lower body, particularly my long neglected glutes.

After six weeks of almost daily weight work, while paying attention to improved walking posture, and accomplishing some weight loss, my hip (and adductor) pain has been greatly reduced. I am not totally pain free yet, but I have come far enough that I know I am finally on the right track.

Disclaimer: Everybody’s situation is different and your hip pain may be caused by totally different mechanics. In most cases, however, it wouldn’t hurt to take a close look at your posture, other seemingly unrelated muscle pains and consider overall strength training, especially if you are getting up in years. After a certain age, the body starts to lose muscle tissue unless you make a major effort to maintain it! Being unable to walk and perform routine daily tasks without pain is a major problem and doesn’t do much for your mental health either. Good luck!

My Winter Horribilis

On Dec. 2, I ruptured my Achilles tendon while playing tennis. At the time, and still to this day, I considered it a lucky break.  That may seem strange but I had been in pretty much constant pain since last July due to a series of partial tears. (See previous post “Every 30 years” on the subject).

Almost from the day the cast came off on Jan.15, I have had excellent function of my Achilles and have been able to walk pain free, thank God! The other results of my surgery were not so good. The biggest problem was that the surgical wound had not healed properly and I was left with a silver dollar sized hole in the back of my leg.

Gross out warning: If you have a weak stomach you might want to skip this paragraph! Still here? The hole was quite deep, right down to the tendon. In fact you could see one of the sutures that had been placed to tie the tendon back together. There is not a lot of flesh in that part of your body. Just a thin layer of skin and then the tendon. Apparently not much blood circulation either, because it is a notoriously slow healing area.

A week later my doctor got his first look at the hole and wanted to put me back in a cast, but I refused. A month rolling around on a knee walker had been more than enough, plus I was afraid that it would get infected inside the cast and I wouldn’t be able to see what was going on or treat it.

He relented and sent me to a specialist to see if i needed a skin transplant. Fortunately that wasn’t necessary and luckily I also avoided infection of the wound. The healing process, however was to drag on at a glacial pace for two more months.

During that time I was basically immobile. Although I had a special boot I could wear that would ease the pressure on the wound, any step I took outside the boot would tug on the wound and re-open it. Consequently I spent most of the time from Jan. 15 -March 15 laying on a couch watching TV and browsing the Internet.

That might not sound so bad, but for a normally active person like me, it was torture! I have to confess that it started to effect my mental state. Only now that I have been able to get back outside and start my spring farm chores do I realize how kooky I had been! I became obsessed with the national political situation and read blogs constantly and studied each new poll.

I became irritable at everything. Fox News was too liberal for me and I had to mute all the opinions of the increasing number of people I didn’t agree with. I listened to conservative talk radio from early morning to all hours of the night.

I barked at a bank teller and told off an insurance office receptionist. I berated my loving girlfriend, who changed my dressing twice a day, and fought to the death of our relationship over her lack of desire to continue participating in my farm dreams.

Adding to my injuries, I believe I was mishandled while under the general anesthesia. Shortly after I got out of the hospital I realized that I had somehow acquired severe tennis elbow in my right arm and a rotator cuff injury to my right shoulder, injuries I had not had pre-op. While there is no way to prove it, it seems obvious that someone must have yanked on my right arm when they turned me over after the operation.

Two cortisone shots and 3 months later I still have to wear an elbow brace to work, although my shoulder seems almost back to normal. For the first couple months, however, I was in extreme pain whenever I tried to use my right arm or tried to roll over in bed.

So it hasn’t been a great winter. The only bright spots are that I decided to go on a diet on Jan. 1 and have lost over 20 pounds and I am now walking pain free for the first time in 9 months and can officially start re-hab tomorrow– and, not so happily, for the first time in 35 years I am truly single again!  But that’s the subject of a future column.