Joint pain | On diet, physical therapy, and woo
In response to my question about curve balls two weeks ago, Susan wrote, “I had pinching pain in my left hip which turned out to be early onset arthritis. At 42. I now understand, through physical therapy, how to stretch that joint and keep the pain somewhat at bay … however I was very surprised my body suddenly had pain moving in ways that used to be normal.”
Oh yeah, I thought. I had just scheduled an appointment for an x-ray of my right hip, which has been twinge-ing for a long time now (yes, I’ll say it, about a year) and had recently started to be a dull ache that sharpened at night, sometimes even waking me up.
I’d tried to address it with chiropractic, massage, yoga, stretching, rest, dietary changes…. It would get better … not really.
The x-ray showed mild osteoarthritis in a few areas, and off to physical therapy I went.
And being me, I naturally also started reading and researching.
Less than 24 hours after my daughter was born, she came down with a fever that was never really explained. I think the most we got out of the hospital staff was that she may have been given a bath that was too warm.
Three years later, when I was pregnant with my son and started rereading The Baby Book, which had been our Bible the first time around, a sentence leaped out at me that I had completely skipped over in that first pregnancy, when we were in that “Oh, that won’t happen to me” stage: it’s not uncommon for babies born under an epidural to get unexplained fevers.
What does that have to do with my hip pain? Well, besides the fact that my daughter displaced my tailbone on her way out (I can hear her muttering, “Bitter much?”), a similar thing happened as I was reading some of the material I’d read before about perimenopause: I’d sort of skipped over some sentences that now jumped off the page at me.
Joint pain is a common complaint in women 40+, and while the jury seems to be out about whether hormonal shifts are a contributing factor, it is part of the mid-life journey. The most commonly affected joints seem to be in the hand, wrist, shoulder, hip, knee, and ankle.
Huh. About five years ago, I pointed out an odd little lump on the first knuckle of my right index finger to my husband. And for about six months, I had an intensely painful right shoulder, which I thought I’d injured doing a kickboxing workout … but maybe it was something else?
There are plenty of non-pharmaceutical treatments for the aches and pains, including PT and cleaning up our diets, which in America are generally highly inflammatory. (For information on the anti-inflammatory diet, I highly recommend checking out Dr. Andrew Weil’s site. Oh look, kale is first on the list. #eatmorekale)
My hair stylist asked, “So what are you doing about the hip?”
“Oh, PT, cleaning up my diet….”
He laughed out loud. “Seriously? What does cleaning up Liza’s diet look like? I can’t imagine anyone eats more healthy.”
Well yes … and even health coaches get sloppy. So if you really want to know, here’s what I tweaked:
- I removed all grains from my diet (again—like I said, some things creep back in!)
- I really have quit added/refined sugar … more or less.
- I upped the amount of fish I eat, reduced the amount of other animal protein. (My vegan-except-when-he’s-not brother urges me to become plant-based, but that’s not likely given that I live with two raging carnivores and my past experience with thyroid disease, a topic for another day.)
- I reduced coffee to one 12-oz cup most days (as much as I wanted to believe that I only drank one cup a day, I was really drinking two … but only once a day—oh, how we can justify!)
- I eliminated wine entirely (that one will probably only last while I’m focused on the hip pain, because y’know, antioxidants!)
- I started drinking more green tea.
- I’ve added some Indian curries and a nut-based golden milk on occasion to work in those anti-inflammatory spices, which I used to put in my oatmeal.
You might be wondering, has it worked?
Yes—way more than I expected.
And what really showed up for me in my reading recently is the emotional/spiritual component of what we feel is physical pain. (Yup, here comes the woo-woo part of the program.)
Louise Hay’s You Can Heal Your Life is perhaps the best-known writing about the emotional/spiritual/physical connection, and her work is referenced by a lot of healers (and some would-be healers). While I dislike the sales angle and don’t endorse the products/services of the site, EnlightenedFeelings.com does have a fairly concise summary of Hay’s major points.
Dr. Christian Northrup writes about emotional release and joint pain in her The Wisdom of Menopause and on her blog. I also appreciated a piece on MindBodyGreen about naturally healing hip pain.
I’m still exploring all this, fascinated by the concepts that our right side is connected with our masculine, yang energy (the powerful, barrel-through-it energy), that pain or constriction in our lower extremities is often related to a deep-seated (haha, pun intended) fear of change/moving forward (just as I start building my coaching practice), and that the hip is specifically related to a feeling of being unsupported, specifically in the financial/career primary food area (again, just as I venture into being self-employed, which can feel very tenuous).
And because the Universe is always making connections for us—whether we’re paying attention or not—I heard a podcast today about some of the pros and cons of having a strong masculine energy in a feminine body, the primary negative being that we may be unwilling to ask for and/or accept help, even when we really are hungering for it.
And a local dance studio reached out to me about doing a workshop for a women’s group on whose Board I serve. The topic? Navigating the masculine/feminine through leading/following in dance … and business, and life.
(Primary) food for thought, indeed….
I’d love to hear from you in the comments about your experiences with joint pain and what you’ve learned about and from it. From the uber-practical to the outlandishly woo, bring it on. Too shy? Send me an email and let me know if I may share your input anonymously.
fascinating stuff, Liza. My hips and ankles ha\/e become irritatingly stiff when getting up…….from anything! Interesting to hear that it’s “normal.” Still gonna add in the collagen as soon as I can, though. And always working on cleaning up the diet, although today I’d like to eat popcorn and drink wine till bedtime!
YES! hips/ankles/feet are so stiff after a day…especially if I sit down to relax for the last half hour or so. Getting up suddenly feels…difficult!
Oddly enough, I have been dealing with right (!) hip pain for about 7 years. It was a twinge at first, a once in a while thing. I continued to hike, workout, even did P90X. Really felt good until a little over a year ago. I have gone through all that you spoke about except for the MD. Nothing has worked well sadly. I love the idea of the dance but I am delving into belly dancing and the Qoya dance.
What I have done as well, is worked heavily with a coach about ALL of those related subjects you cited. And more. I am weak now but I think I have hit rock bottom and am now on the way back up. Funny how it seem to hit us as we step into that crone life and we “find” ourselves more. Definitely food for thought.
Isn’t it interesting in light of your podcast with Hillary—as women, we really do push through, ignore, just keep going…. I’m finding “the crone” life is the perfect opportunity to say, “You know what? Enough.” Embracing the crone life, that’s us!
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