My Diagnosis of Osteoarthritis

heal yourself healing an injury pain free athlete pain free body the pain free athlete Feb 27, 2013

I was diagnosed with severe bone-on-bone Osteoarthritis (OA) in my left hip in 2007 after arthroscopic surgery. When my doctor and I parted, his last words were, "I'll see you in 15 years for your hip replacement." In my late 30s I was too young for a joint replacement, being advised to reduce my activity level and avoid sports that hurt.

OA develops after injury, surgery and overuse. It is breakdown of the cartilage within joints. Cartilage is a protective tissue on the ends of the bones, absorbs shock and facilitates smooth joint motions. According to the Arthritis Foundation, "Athletes . . . have a higher risk of developing osteoarthritis due to injury and increased stress on certain joints. Soft tissue injuries, such as ACL tears or a hip labral tear (in my case), can lead to OA; it can also appear in joints affected by previous bone fractures and surgeries." The Arthritis Foundation goes on to state, "Osteoarthritis can also damage ligaments, menisci and muscles" (2011 Arthritis Foundation).

OA then can begin after injury, and OA itself can cause more injury. This condition can be very painful and incapacitating, causing stiffness, swelling and movement restrictions. As the cartilage is worn down, the bone becomes exposed. Consequently, OA is a leading cause of joint replacements. In 2009, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) reported that 700,000 primary total hip and knee replacements are performed annually. This figure is expected to double over the next 10 years.

Receiving a formal diagnosis of any kind makes your heart sink. Now you have a big, ugly word to attach to your pain and by which to label yourself. I have arthritis; I am an arthritis sufferer! I can now commiserate with others who share my same condition, I belong to the group! Some people, myself included, proudly stand behind their diagnosis, finally having something definitive to point to as the cause of the pain. Soon after my diagnosis I picked up a copy of the magazine Arthritis Today, bought a book on alternative therapies for arthritis, looked into support groups and talked to others who shared my plight. I was hopeless about my recovery and preparing to surrender to my disease.

Until . . . I met with an Egoscue® posture alignment therapist whose reaction to my arthritis story was, "So you have a little inflammation in your hip?" Whoa! A little inflammation, I thought. No, I have this serious life-changing condition that is never going away. Some time later another Egoscue® therapist told me I wore my OA diagnosis on my sleeve for everyone to see and admire. Yikes, I didn't know I was portraying myself that way nor did I want to. 

Pain Free Book Cover

Although these observations initially offended me, I have come to agree with them. Yes, I have some inflammation in my hip and in my knee and back as well that is occasionally painful but totally manageable.

When Pete Egoscue stated that cartilage can grow back in his book Pain Free he was highly criticized. The body is an organic, renewing machine, why can't cartlidge grow back just like hair or finger nails? It's true, there is limited blood supply to this tissue so it will take time but regeneration is possible. I have experienced in myself and observed it in others. This regrowth, however, is only possible when the stress in the joint is removed which, in many cases is caused by posture misalignments.

Contrary to my doctor's prediction of steadily increasing pain and a gradual decline in athletic ability, my pain has lessened and my sports performance excelled. I am moving with greater ease than when I was younger and I am back to participating in all the sports I choose. And I no longer identify myself as someone with arthritis, seeking out resources for my crippling, lifelong disease.

A diagnosis is just a word used to label your pain. The pain was the same before and it is the same after attaching this noun to it. The way you respond in body, mind and soul is the key and will dictate your recovery.

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