Wednesday, October 26, 2005

X-Rays and OMG

I went for my first physical therapy consultation on Tuesday. I was anxious to get started, so it wasn't easy to hold back and submit to x-rays and various range of motion tests. This was a simple problem, right? Give me some stretches and exercises and let's be on our way!

But no, they didn't do anything to start my treatment. Instead they took x-rays, requested a $30 co-pay and told me to return the next day. I was annoyed, since they obviously weren't going to find a soft tissue injury on an x-ray. But okay, we'll play the game your way and see what happens.

I returned today and was ushered into a tiny consult room that had my x-rays on a darkened viewing screen. I was asked to sit, watch a video and wait for the doctor. The video was all about the hows and whys of chiropractic care. Now, I'm not entirely against chiropractic therapy, but I don't think it does nearly as much as its most devoted proponents and practitioners claim. I also think that it's nearly useless if it's not done in conjunction with massage and physical therapy, to prevent recurrence of problems. I've met responsible chiropractors as well as those who just want to keep you coming back and dropping money, so I'm always on my guard when someone starts talking about the wonders of spinal adjustments.

So I watched the video distractedly, wondering if I'd made a terrible mistake in choosing this particular place, this particular doctor. I had chosen her because she was ART-certified, but maybe I should've gone back to the guy I saw two years ago, who would've had me doing things with elastic bands by now.

The video ended. Still no sign of the doc. I was bored out of my skull in that tiny room, so I decided to flick the switch for the x-ray screen and take a look at my pics.


There it was, so obvious that even this pre-med dropout could tell at a glance what was wrong-- bone loss and joint degeneration in the right hip socket.

I nearly jumped out of my skin! Where was the doctor? I needed to talk to someone about this RIGHT NOW! I peeked out the door. Someone who obviously didn't work there was chatting about the Astros with an aide in the hallway. Grr. Shut up, people! The Astros are toast and I've got a REAL problem here!

I spent what seemed like forever in that room, alternately squirming in my seat, pacing around and staring at my x-rays in shock. The one of my neck looked pretty bad too-- no curve to the upper spinal column. No wonder I always have headaches and tight shoulders. But I've learned to live with that. This hip, though… When will someone come and TALK to me???

Well, finally the doc came and I pounced on her, insisting we cut to the chase and talk about what the heck is up with this right hip. She confirmed what needed no confirmation, that the x-ray showed signs of joint deterioration and she said she was going to get me a referral for an MRI. Based on the result of that, a talk with an orthopedic surgeon may or may not be necessary.

Okay, okay, I know a guy who does Ironman on a DuPont hip, so even in the unlikely event that this is a worst-case scenario, we're still okay here, and better to have caught it now than later, collapsed on the road with a pelvic fracture during a marathon or something. Since I didn't even start having localized pain in the hip socket area until a couple months ago, I'm feeling optimistic. It's quite likely that the x-ray looks more serious than it is due to the weird angle caused by the misaligned pelvis. That's what I'm hoping, at any rate.

But… damn, how did such a thing happen? Running didn't do this. My weekly mileage is low and I substitute joint-saving elliptical sessions for a lot of my scheduled runs. Strong bones and joints run in both sides of my family. Hell, even my cavities recalcify, so there's nothing intrinsically weak about my body.

You don't get problems like this x-ray is showing after only five years of training. This is a problem that was decades in the making. I think it was those seven years of ballet classes as a kid which twisted my knees, which altered my Q-angle on one side, which made one leg functionally shorter than the other for most of my life. I don't remember a time when I didn't have a pop in my right hip. It had to have been those ballet classes and all my childhood efforts to achieve perfect turnout in spite of the fact my body was never designed for it.

On a positive note, the doctor pointed to things she could fix within a very short period of time, such as my rotated pelvis. She can fix that with some spinal manipulation followed up with physical therapy. It will get rid of the lubar-sacral pain I've had for awhile and take pressure off the hip, relieving that pain as well. And as a bonus she promised she could restore a normal curvature to my neck, which would cure my chronic headaches and tightness through the shoulders. Well, that would be nice. I bet it would help my swimming, too.

We had a long chat about treatment plans and goals and she did a couple of adjustments and some electrotherapy on my pelvic area. That sonic boom you heard around 5:30 pm, Central time, was my neck getting adjusted. I can look up a little bit now. Would you believe I haven't been able to throw my head back and look up at the sky in… oh, I don't know how long? It's been so long that I had come to think it was normal.

So the moral of this little tale is to withhold your skepticism if someone wants to do a bunch of tests before starting you on even the most basic physical therapy regimen. The problem you think you have may just be a symptom of something quite different.

Recent Workouts
Monday: rest
Tuesday: speedwork: 10 x 400
Wednesday: 35 minutes elliptical


nancytoby said...

Whoa, that is scary. Good luck with whatever happens - sounds like you're doing well on pursuing some work-arounds!

Mica said...

Yikes! Good thing you caught it! Hope the treatments work out.

Steve Bezner said...

ouch! Thanks for sharing your story! Good Luck!

Keryn said...

Thank you for sharing all that. I had a great experience with a chiropracter earlier this year. She cleared up the knee pain in a few sessions when doctors and physical therapists told me I'd have to deal with it for life. I don't subscribe to the whole lifestyle thing either, but hey, it helped me out and it sounds like it will help you. Good luck and keep us posted.

PuddyRat said...

Morale of the story should be, unless you are a doctor, and even then it isn't a good idea, don't try to self-diagnose.

So sorry to hear about your hip. Getting old(er) sucks sometimes. Sure hope you are feeling better soon!

Shelley said...

wholly smokes, that's crazy, geez I almost wish I could get a whole body x-ray. I hope all is well, let us know how you make out with this!!

Comm's said...

crossing fingers for you. the medical community loves to refer and refer and look and look and come to know conclusion that makes since for you.