This is part III of a three-part series. If you haven’t read part I or part II yet, check them out as I explain my two biggest reasons for not getting surgery after being diagnosed with FAI and three specific exercises I used to get out of hip pain. In this article, I’ll discuss the three most important lifestyle modifications I found to be most helpful during my FAI recovery.
Lifestyle habits usually get overlooked during a traditional FAI protocol and may be the biggest reason why many individuals are not able to get fully back to 100%. Even if you get in the gym and can perform rehabilitative exercises for an hour each day, what is going on the remaining 14-17 hours you are awake? What can you do during the day to expedite rather than delay your recovery? Below are the three most helpful lifestyle modifications I incorporated during my recovery:
(1) Evaluating and Modifying my Diet
After doing some careful analysis of my diet, I began eliminating trouble foods and immediately noticed a reduction in my hip pain. It is important to analyze the foods that are the staple of your diet. Too much of one food can trigger a sensitivity and wreak havoc on the body if you are intolerant to that food. If you are mildly gluten intolerant for example and you’re consuming a bagel in the morning, a sandwich for lunch and pasta in the evening, there will likely be some type of adverse reaction, which can include joint pain. In fact, studies have shown that “30-40% of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients can improve substantially by using an elimination diet to identify foods that precipitate symptoms and the avoiding of these foods.” Common foods that may be responsible for food intolerance and therefore contributing to joint pain include gluten, corn, yeast, oats, alcohol, dairy, eggs and nuts.
(2) Mind/Body Connection
This is no voodoo-hippie principle. Pain is a survival mechanism and when the body feels threatened, it releases pain signals indicating action is required. However, what is truly remarkable is that there are times when the brain sends pain signals even when there is no injury, or alternatively, does not send any pain signals when there is some type of tissue damage. Studies have shown that there is no correlation between pain and an existence of pathology in an MRI. In other words, you can have pain in the hip and have no labral tear or have no pain in the hip and have a labral tear! Todd Hargrove, a movement specialist from Seattle, WA breaks it down beautifully on his website bettermovement.org. He explains that emotional, societal and environmental factors can be causing or exacerbating joint pain in many people. He also suggests that habitual responses to certain tasks may trigger pain simply because your brain is accustomed to reacting to that stimulus with pain.
The way I noticed this in my situation was every time I commuted to and from work I would “check” if the pain was still there with almost every step I took. When it was there, I became frustrated and kept ruminating on how I’m going to make this go away. Looking back now, this was unquestionably making the pain I felt worse. What I started doing and what I think is important for anyone with single-sided joint pain (which is usually the case) was shifting my mental focus to the opposite side. For example, my habit was to always focus on my right painful hip when walking and noticing every little sensation that arose. To break this habit, I began shifting the focus to my left hip to determine if the sensations were any different than what I felt in the right painful hip. Almost always, the sensations I felt in my right hip were identical to those on the left and I quickly realized I was simply experiencing normal feelings.
(3) Adding Variety to Daily Positions
You work in an office all day, but does that mean you have to sit all day and place the hip in a compromised position? I ordered an adjustable desk which I convert into a standing desk throughout the day. When I do most of my “typing work,” I try to kneel on a mat and do the work that way. I try to provide as much variety as I can when I am working behind a computer screen all day. Here is an example of a typical day for me at the office:
In addition, instead of sitting on a couch to watch TV, I usually lay on a yoga mat or a rug. It makes a profound difference and the rest of your body will thank you as well. Constantly sitting or reclining in an office chair atrophies your muscles, especially the posterior ones that are likely already underdeveloped.
I’ve found that every time I made a significant leap in my recovery it was when I challenged my previously held belief system in some way. If you’ve been doing the same thing for months or years and are still in pain, that routine is not working, and something needs to be changed. Usually this will challenge your belief system and force you to make changes in your daily routine which will cause some serious discomfort. This sense of discomfort is the only way progress is made. Solving a chronic pain issue is like solving a puzzle – sometimes you must look at it from a different angle to find the solution. Hopefully the above suggestions can give you some ideas on how to start finding that solution.
I am passionate about this subject and can write another five blog articles about it but I am confident that these three articles will resonate with those being troubled with FAI symptoms. Feel free to message me at email@example.com to discuss your personal situation in more detail.