Be warned… giraffe stance will not enable you to paint your toenails.
The truth is, I no longer know what I can do until I try it and find I can’t. Cutting toenails on my right foot, for instance… and varnishing them. The doctor on the phone asked if I could bring my right knee up to my chest, and until that point, I hadn’t realised that I couldn’t.
I began to limp on the first weekend of December, when the occasional twinges I’d been getting in my right hip became constant. Actually, it isn’t the hip that hurt when walking but the muscles down the front and side of my thigh which, I assume, are compensating for whatever movements the hip doesn’t want to make.
Since then I’ve been following hip and leg strengthening exercises. Anyone who has followed this blog for any length of time will know that exercise and me do not co-exist well. My dislike of sport and exercise began with school PE lessons and has never abated. Mostly, I find exercise deeply boring.
However, I cannot deny that these targeted excercises have made a difference. My leg muscles rarely hurt now as much as they did in December and January, although the hip still hurts at times. While exercises won’t rebuild my crumbling bones, I’m working on the theory that it’s muscles that are holding them together.
I’ve now had x-rays that confirm that my hip is arthritic, but it will apparenly have to get much worse before it is bad enough to justify anything more than painkillers.
Meanwhile, I’ve recognised coping strategies that I’ve been using for a while – even before my hip became painful. Take, for instance, the giraffe stance when bending to pick up something from the floor. This involves sticking out my right leg behind me or to one side as the still-flexible left leg squats so I can reach the floor. I’m trying now to insist on both legs bending (squats are one of my exercises) but sometimes I forget.
Another coping strategy is one I must have been using for years without realising.
I work standing at my computer for most of the time and now find I have been resting all my weight on the good, left leg. Even now that I am aware of this, it is difficult to stand for long with my weight resting on the dodgy hip, even though doing so actually helps the leg pain longer term. (I’m guessing this counts as weight-bearing exercise which, I think I read somewhere, is good for bone health.) Strangely, when I transfer weight from left to right, it feels as though the bad right leg is longer than the other.
I must have been putting all my weight on the good leg for years without realising. For almost two years I suffered from plantar fasciitis on the ‘good’ side, which is damage to the muscle that runs under the foot. Plantar fasciitis results in foot pain and, again, limping when it gets bad. The solution for that one was supporting the insteps. This meant spending out on better sandals (and inserts for the shoes I loved too much to throw out) but first I had to realise that it wasn’t going to just go away. To avoid putting all my weight on it for hours on end would also have been a good strategy, but I’ve only realised since December that I was doing so.
It isn’t only the pain in the affected hip that causes problems. It’s the things my body does to avoid that pain that can become issues in themselves. As my gran used to advise… “Don’t grow old.”