Ever since I went through puberty and my hips expanded so fast that I got stretch marks from it, I’ve experienced hip pain. But it used to be that I only got this pain when when I did certain leg lifting exercises, so I just avoided those.
Several years ago in my mid-twenties, I was working at a job that had certain safety hazards. I got yanked on by one of our clients, who was mentally disabled, and it injured my lower back on the right side. This injury pulled on my right hip and soon I was hobbling my way to the chiropractor. It seemed the muscles in my hip had tightened up to the point of pain, and as the massage therapist worked her way into my hip, I grit my teeth so as not to yelp.
Then there was that one time I gave birth and my hips were actually trying to kill me with sheer pain.
I can’t remember when the pain reminiscent of my work injury started coming back, but I do remember it getting pretty bad last fall. It had been triggered by the motions involved in making our bed. I remember one day in November I had a photo session to do, and since I shoot on location, it would require my walking a great deal. I was concerned how much pain I would be in, but as I literally hiked around that park for an hour, my hip actually started to feel better! This was my first indicator that the pain was related to not getting enough exercise.
Then–because I’m not so good at getting exercise, I suppose–my other hip started to join in the pain. It came to the point where I’d occasionally have terrible pain in my right hip, but a lot of the time it was just achy, and now my left hip was getting achy, too. I had this sensation that my hips were going to fall apart on me, and that made me nervous about getting pregnant with this problem–I feared the combination of relaxin hormone and the pressure of a pregnant belly and then giving birth would have a disastrous effect on my hips.
I did notice that sitting with my knees up (like when reading a book in my comfy chair) would make my the front of my hips feel tight. The pain was always in the outer part of my hip sockets. I kind of figured this was related but really didn’t think it out. I also noticed that when I lay flat on my back and stretched my legs out, it gave the front part of my hips a nice stretch and felt really good.
On my recent visit to my chiropractor, I was determined to get some answers. Why were my hips hurting? What kind of therapy did I need? I had had them adjusted before by the other doctors in the clinic (I hadn’t seen my regular doctor in a while), and they didn’t help me a whole lot. This time I got my own doctor and I just knew he would help me. What he told me made so much sense.
First, he asked me if I had been sitting a lot. “A lot less recently,” I said. But then I thought of how I had been sitting a lot for the three years or so before the pain started. Next, he had me lay on my back, brought my left knee up then gently pulled it to the side to see how far my hip would open up in that direction. Not a whole lot. Then he repeated with the right side. It went slightly further, meaning the left side was worse (which surprised me since the right always hurt more, but now I figure that’s from my old injury and the current hip problem is just that–current). His diagnosis? My hip flexors were too tight.
This wasn’t just the result of my inactivity. Age is partly to blame, and also–pregnancy! The hormone relaxin loosens our joints during pregnancy, and afterward, those joints tighten up. Sometimes they over-tighten. Makes sense mine would over-tighten, considering I sat around so much during my postpartum period. The pain didn’t start until three years or so postpartum, so this had built up a while. I think becoming more active after so much inactivity may have been what triggered the achiness.
The treatment plan? Oh, I love the simplicity of the treatment plan! He told me to do side lunges and walking lunges, and to basically just make sure my hips move around every day. Then he gave me the best hip adjustment I had had to date. He checked my hips again, and they were already more flexible. I’ve been doing the lunges, and I feel like things are going to be better now.
But wait! What about my inability to do leg lifts without hip pain? That wasn’t caused by pregnancy or inactivity. I actually do have a theory about that, which is related to my narrow face, the fact I had to have braces, and perhaps why is was extremely difficult to push my son out of my body during birth…and maybe even the rest of my health problems. But I’ll have to save that for another post.