Even as a physical therapist, when I experience pain I’m really not any different than most of my patients. In the beginning I manage it the quickest way I know how, and then assume it will go away. If it doesn’t go away in a timely manner, then I may do what most patients do… ignore the problem for a while in hopes it will just go away because life moves on and who has time for injury, right? Well, a small injury last year didn’t go away for me, and I thought I would share my story to let you into the mind of some of your physical therapists when we become patients just like you.
Last February I took a “mommy-cation” and escaped to the beautiful mountains of Colorado for a few days with my sister in law. We ended a few days of skiing with an amazing five mile snowshoe hike on a sunny perfect Colorado day. When I returned home I started to have some pain in the front of my left hip. I simply assumed I had overdone an activity I hadn’t done before, and that my hip was annoyed because of it. I iced it, stretched it, massaged it, dry needled it, and did some cold laser. All of these treatments helped, but it never quite totally went away.
This is where I am human and simply decided to ignore it, as I was sure it would go away over time. Well 6 months later I was still getting pain when I would rise from a chair and start walking. Not disabling, but annoying. After walking a few steps the pain would go away. My hip would feel better after I exercised and stretched, so in my mind it was simply a muscle injury. Because of this, I invited some of our physical therapy students to practice some dry needling in and around my hip. This all helped but the relief was not long lasting.
Finally eight months in and still having some nagging symptoms, I decided I needed to look deeper. I decided to really give my body a look; I needed to become a real patient. Something else had to be perpetuating my pain. Treating the pain, as is often many people’s go to, was not working for me. Now, with my patients I am always looking for the root cause of pain if they haven’t had an obvious traumatic injury to an area.
When I focused my PT thinking cap on myself I discovered quite a few things. I thought about all the things that could be causing my hip pain in the front of my left hip. It led me to analyze my pelvis and the increased mobility I know I have on that one side. My pelvic alignment was ascue. Correcting this malalignment with manual therapy helped temporarily, but the pain would return as my pelvis would shift back. So digging deeper, I discovered that my abdominal oblique muscles on my affected side were holding my pelvis ascue throughout the day, and were much tighter on the left side than on the right. On top of that, the left side of my lower back had become very tight and restricted from compensating for my hip pain all these months. All of these issues were causing my hip flexor to be in a stretched position all the time. Muscles don’t like to be stretched all the time, and this was perpetuating the pain when I would transition from sitting to walking.
So I enlisted Melissa as my Physical Therapist, and we went to work. I had a lot of trigger points and tight muscles that needed to be released in order for my pelvis to move properly once again. Utilizing trigger point dry needling had the best effect for me, with the most important releases being in my lower back and my oblique abdominal muscles on that left side. The oblique abdominal muscles are massive muscles with many attachment points going from our rib cage, to our pelvis, and then attaching into our lumbar fascia. Once my abdominal muscles were released, my pelvic alignment could be adjusted through manual therapy and therefore restored back to normal working function.
After all of that, I could then do some strengthening exercises for my hip, pelvis, and low-back. We also added in stretching for those released muscles that had been tight, thus allowing them to maintain their new proper length. Between the trigger point dry needling, manual therapy, strengthening exercises, and stretches, in just a few visits my 8 months of hip pain had subsided.
So what is it that differentiates VTFC from the rest of the physical therapy world? It’s our ability to work the problem backwards, and treat the underlying causes. My hip pain was most definitely started from the overuse I forced upon in that fine Colorado day, but there were underlying causes that perpetuated it to become a chronic pain. If I had only put on my PT hat for myself early on, I could have fixed myself much sooner.
With Melissa’s help in using a multifaceted approach, and the continuity of care, I was able to receive an effective outcome with very few visits.
How can the Physical Therapists at Virginia Therapy & Fitness Center put on their thinking caps for you? Do you have any lingering pain? Let us find the root of your issue, and get you back out living your life!