I am sharing this story in hopes that it will help some people who have unexplained hip pain, knee pain, or back pain. While my situation will obviously not apply to everybody, I hope that by sharing this I can help others who may have reached a dead end in their own search for answers.
Like many Americans, I am not active enough. I log barely six thousand steps on an average day, and I carry more than my fair share of extra weight. This wasn’t always so, however. Little more than twelve years ago, I jogged a mile a day with my border collie/Australian shepherd mix, stopping halfway to play off-leash with her in the softball field in my neighborhood.
What changed? Aside from the lifestyle changes that we all experience over the years, the one thing I can say changed my habits forever is this: pain.
It started as right hip pain, which was diagnosed as arthritis. I switched to walking, an activity that became increasingly painful. I went to physical therapy, which didn’t seem to help much. Then, about three years after the hip pain started, my back went out. I was flat on my back for almost a month, unable to bend, twist, or even sit. I ate standing at the kitchen counter and spent the rest of the time in bed. Despite physical therapy and extensive chiropractic treatment, my back and hip failed to improve.
I had various imaging procedures performed to see what the back problem was, and was told that there were probably spinal issues. My regular practitioner referred me to a surgeon, who dictated a report in my presence in which he basically stated that I was mentally sound, and that my pain was real, but that back surgery would do me no good, because my spine was not the cause of my back’s pain and inflammation. I needed to look elsewhere.
I was left at loose ends with unexplained chronic back and hip pain. While I was thankful to learn that I did not have arthritis or spinal issues, I was at a loss as to how I could regain my life. In desperation, I turned to the last bastion of experimental medicine: the Internet.
What I found after researching hip pain was that mine is a common issue for long distance runners who use roadways. These athletes run on the edges of the road, which are crowned to encourage water to drain off the road and into the gutter. Thus, the “outside” foot – the side furthest from the center of the road – is traveling further down than the “inside” foot. The symptoms – hip pain, back pain, and painfully tight IT band – were identical to mine. Unfortunately, I had not been running for years at this point.
I then realized that if this “uneven surface” situation was the source of my troubles, despite the fact that I was not running on uneven surfaces, it would have to mean that one of my legs was shorter than the other. To test this theory, I bought a pair of inexpensive gel soles and placed one of them into the shoe on my painful side. The relief was almost immediate. I then went to a podiatrist, who confirmed my theory and created some cork lifts for my right shoe, lifting my right foot about 3/16 inch.
Thus, my hip problem was not a hip problem at all, but an issue caused by one leg being shorter than the other. Unfortunately, the back problems that this caused are persistent. Pain and inflammation are still daily issues for me. If this had been diagnosed sooner, I may not be in this situation. The reality is that I need to take myself back from this point, and not settle for being “okay”.
Humans were made to walk. We were not made for standing in one place, or for sitting. For my health to improve, I need to do what my body was made to do. I need to walk. Hopefully, with enough careful work, I will become more than “okay.”
You can read more about this problem at this link:
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It sounds like you’ve really been through it. 12 years is a long time to live with such disabling pain. I suffer from a chronic illness, so understand how frustrating it is, how paralysing and upsetting conflicting medical advice can be and how tempting it is to adjust your personal normality just to ‘live with it’. I very much admire your persistence and how you took control of it. And am very glad to hear that you’ve found a partial solution. Wishing you all the very best for a full recovery, and a creative and pain-free New Year ~Fiona
Thank you, Fiona.
I hesitated to write about this, because I didn’t want it to sound like a “poor me” post. However, I’ve spoken with many people who have had unexplained musculo-skeletal pain, and who have become convinced that surgery or drugs are their only options. I hope that people will understand that sometimes simple solutions can address the root of the problem, and that extreme solutions (back surgery or hip replacement, in my case) do nothing to solve the underlying issues. Less obvious practitioners (a podiatrist, in my case) can sometimes be a source of valuable information.
I’m sorry to hear of your chronic illness. I hope that you, too, find some basic changes that will help you to feel better, even if they do not necessarily “cure” your illness. ~Lisa