PAO recovery week 11: Sciatica sucks

I haven’t been posting too much this week – my Way of the Dress blogging routine has been completely upset by the recent setback in my recovery. A week ago, I discussed it with my GP who decided a new X-ray would be sensible. I ended up waiting in A&E whilst three different orthopaedic doctors reviewed the new X-ray and compared it with one from my 6 week check up, which had been sent down from UCLH. This was necessary because the X-ray showed lots of fractures, but the doctors couldn’t tell which ones had happened during the PAO and which ones might be new – how reassuring!

In the end the consensus was that there were no fresh fractures, but Mr Witt has agreed to review the X-rays to be sure. In the meantime, my physiotherapist’s best bet is that my central nervous system has been aggravated by the trauma of the surgery and is reacting to the increasing levels of activity and weight bearing by responding more strongly to pain. This is why the pain moves down my leg from my hip – it’s traveling along the sciatic nerve. I’ve been banned from physio and told to go back to using two crutches. Grrr – I’m so frustrated!

In the meantime, here are some sciatica-busting moves I’ve found useful…

1) Bouncing gently on a gym ball to keep my core engaged and stop my back muscles from getting weaker

2) The ‘tennis ball’ sciatica treatment as recommended by many Hip Women!

Lie on your back with your knees bent. Place a tennis ball under the small of your back and using your hips, manoeuvre it slowly around your sacroiliac joints until you find a tender spot. Then relax against the tennis ball and you’ll start to feel the pain dissipate a little.

3) Very gentle hamstring stretches: the sciatic nerve runs down the hamstring so by stretching the hamstring you can release pressure on this nerve. I was taught one gentle exercise that I can do whilst sitting:

Sit on the front edge of a dining chair, with your heels on the floor but keeping your knees relatively straight. Holding onto the edge of the chair, lean forward from your pelvis, keeping your back straight. You should feel a stretch at the back of your legs. When the stretch becomes more comfortable, lean forward a little more and hold for up to 20 seconds. You can do this one leg at a time if it’s more comfortable – just keep one leg bent at the knee, and stretch the other one.

4) Lots of yoga ‘cat’ poses, moving into ‘downward dog’ when I feel able to.

Like this:

…and not like this!

Don’t try this at home – or with your cat.

Downward dog – I can do it JUST LIKE THIS. Ahem. Photo from http://www.yogajournal.com

5) Saving the best till last – this exercise was the most helpful in reducing my pain levels.

Lie on your back with knees bent, and let your knees fall gently to one side, then lift them back to centre. Let them fall to the other side, then back to centre. Repeat until horrible nauseating pain has gone away.

Reclining twist – from http://www.diveintampabay.com

After a week or two of awful pain, I’m now on reduced levels of painkillers and starting to walk around the house without crutches – although with a little less confidence than before. My next physio appointment is tomorrow so hopefully I’ll be starting a more comprehensive rehabilitation programme again soon. I’m keeping my fingers crossed, and sending a BIIIG thank you to the hip women who helped me through a wretched couple of weeks. Being happy with wonky hips would be a lot harder without you!

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PAO Recovery Week 10: A Setback.

Dammit – things were going so well!  Until a week or so ago, I was making great progress.  As I wrote in my previous PAO update, I was beginning to do some weight bearing physiotherapy , trying to move away from crutches, and generally enjoying being in much less pain and much more mobile.  So much so, that I think I got too confident and…oops.

*Sniff*

I was trying to do some one legged bridges (raising myself up on my operated leg) and it felt sore.  Well, I thought to myself, physiotherapy exercises do hurt.  Every physiotherapy exercise I’ve ever been given has hurt when I first tried it.  So I did a few more.  And that night, when I went to bed, I noticed a soreness down the side / back of my right thigh.  It hurt when I bear weight through my leg, when I squat, when I sit down, when I stand up – and over the next few days, it didn’t get any better.

After an uncomfortable hydrotherapy session I decided to take it up with my GP, who sent me to the Accident and Emergency Department for an urgent X-Ray.  Three different orthopaedic doctors compared the X-ray with the previous ones taken at my 6-week checkup, and decided that there were no changes between the two.  This is good news, because it means my adventurousness hasn’t resulted in a fracture.  Blood tests revealed nothing unusual so infection is also ruled out – hooray.   Unfortuately though, it has left me with a series of guesses as to what is causing the problem.  Sciatica?  Bursitis?  Iliotibial band?  I’m not sure.

Ouch…what have I done?

But still – meh.  In terms of pain and mobility levels I have regressed weeks.  I am back on two crutches, need serious amounts of codeine to help me sleep through the pain, and can’t sit, stand, walk or sleep for long. And I’m still at a loss as to what is causing the pain.  It isn’t localised to my joint – in fact the mobility in my hip joint is continuing to improve.   This pain radiates down the back and outside of my thigh, even as far as the outside of my knee.   And because I don’t know what the matter is, I don’t know how to try and fix it.  I’ve been told to lay off the physio and wait to see if things improve without any weight bearing or other kind of aggravation.  Grrrrrr!

Thankfully I have another physio appointment in two days, so I am really hoping for a) some answers and b) some exercises that can help me reduce the pain.  I feel like I’ve retreated back to a codeine-induced zombified haze, and I just don’t want it to be like this any more. Last week, I was getting excited about  returning to work soon, and now I’ve been signed off for at least another four weeks.

Are there any PAO-ers or ‘hip women’ out there who can give me some advice?  Does this sound like anything you experienced or have heard of?  I’d be so grateful if you could help me get rid of this pain and put me back on the track to becoming the bionic woman (minus one-legged bridges, which I may very well never attempt again.  Ever).

Week 9 post-PAO – hydrotherapy rules

9 weeks into my PAO recovery and things are definitely looking up!  I have been working hard at the physio and am now happily doing exercises that I found impossible in week 6 – and more besides.  My physio has been really helpful at finding me new exercises that challenge me (for which read: that hurt like hell). For the first day or two, they are beyond difficult, but gradually I am finding myself getting stronger and stronger.  It’s a small difference which I can’t notice day by day, but when I look back each week, the improvement is undeniable.

My scar is continuing to heal and my mum bought me this stuff:

I am bio-oiling the hell out of myself.

I have no idea if it works, but it smells innocuous and feels nice when I smooth it into the incision and surrounding area.  My GP friend suggested I try it, so I will continue to report back on the healing process.

Some things I can now do:

  1. Stand on my operated leg for  about 5 wobbly seconds
  2. Do a few dips on my operated leg whilst holding onto a chair or whilst using my crutch for balance
  3. Lift my operated leg until it’s perpendicular to my body (when lying down) and hold it there quite happily
  4. Walk around inside the house without a crutch – albeit with a significant limp, and very slowly.  The more I walk, the more noticeable the limp is.  And in the morning and evening it hurts because it all feels so stiff.
  5. Bring my operated leg up and cross my ankle over my other knee so my legs are in a ‘number four ‘position.
  6. Sleep on my operated side for several hours
  7. I had a teeny little practice driving again yesterday – hooray!  I wouldn’t want to drive more than a few miles yet, but it felt good to get behind the wheel and to practice some emergency stops / harsh braking to reassure myself I could do it if necessary.

These are small triumphs that please me every day.  I am less reliant on painkillers but still take paracetomol (and sometimes codeine) before heading off to physio or hydrotherapy.  This week at physio I spent 5 minutes on a bike and discovered that if I worked at it, the limp I have when using one crutch will go away.  At hydrotherapy I was given some very tailored exercises that will help me with the things I still find difficult (reaching to put shoes, socks, jeans, underwear on, lifting my knee up in front of my hip, pushing down with my heel).

The issue with hydro is that people assume it’s a lovely spa treatment and offer up comments like ‘ooh, lucky you!’.  Unfortunately, this isn’t the case – at my hydro session, it feels more like getting into a warm bath with your physio and perhaps one other patient, and splashing about doing exercises that hurt you but which you are assured will aid your recovery.  That said, it is blissful to let the warm water take the strain off my body for a while – and so freeing to be able to walk in chest deep water with no limp and no significant pain.  I am always a bit reluctant to come out of the pool after my time is up, but it is exhausting work!

In general, the tiredness is where I feel I am getting stuck at the moment.  If I go out and I’m out of my comfort zone, I get tired after a couple of hours.  The pain creeps up on me and my brain gets all foggy with tiredness and soreness.  It’s this which makes me feel I’m not ready to go back to work yet.

I’ve also noticed that I’m continuing to have some very mild hair loss.  It started during week 2 post-op.  Every time I brush or wash my hair, I lose about a handful’s worth (scrunched up) of strands from the root.  I also shed strands of hair over the carpets, etc (nice).  I’m not too worried about this – I have a lot of hair, and I’ve heard this can happen after major surgery or a physical trauma.    To be honest, there are so many people who lose all their hair through chemotherapy, etc, that I can’t really get upset about this.

On the plus side, I’m getting quite fond of my new ‘dinosaur spines’, as I’m calling the screw bumps just above the incision.  They are starting to become more obvious – you can see in this picture.  They do press into tight clothing like jeans, but wearing dresses is proving to be an easy alternative for now.

‘Dinosaur spines’ – I actually quite like them. I am weird.

The screws will be taken out with the ones from next year’s LPAO, probably in 2014.  That seems like a looong time away, so perhaps it’s a good thing I’m happy with them.  They make me feel like a bionic woman!  Watch this space for future feats of athleticism…I’ll just have a quite nap first!

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