Dealing with a Hip Injury – A Personal Story by Sports Massage Therapist, Lynda Parnell
Posted on 14th August 2020 at 10:00
I’ve recently become injured, so am writing a series of blogs which will take you through my journey of treatment, rehab, and my return to training.
I spend a lot of my time telling clients about one of the roles of the glutes (stabilising the pelvis) and about the fact that, if your glutes are lazy and don’t fire up straight away, then your hamstrings will take over the glutes’ role and try to stabilise the pelvis themselves. I had the opportunity, and misfortune, to witness this in action three weeks ago when, during a martial arts training session, my left hip dislocated.
I was doing a reverse turning kick at the time, so I had my right foot spinning in the air at head height whilst my left foot was (supposed to be) pivoting on the floor. As it happened, my conscious brain split deftly into two halves! One half was shouting at me that this hurt and was a Very Bad Thing to happen; the other half was marvelling at, and celebrating, the spasm that shot like a bullet from top to bottom of my left hamstring as it tried its best to stabilise my pelvis now that my hip was no longer in its socket!
So now I have become an injured client, a client who is seeing a Fire & Earth therapist for treatment rather than my usual maintenance. A client who is getting a taste of my own medicine, which I’m sure some of you will be chuckling about! I’ve also had three weeks of very strict rest – no training, no coaching, and only gentle stretching – which has been frustrating and challenging to put it mildly.
Weeks 1-3: Feeling vulnerable and frustrated
I teach three Taekwon-Do classes every week…
How on earth do you teach a complex martial art without using your body? I’ve had three weeks of twice-weekly treatments which have been painful at times. An elbow in your quad attachments (right up in your groin) is not a pleasant experience. I’ve had three weeks of constant pain, of shortened strides, of reduced mobility, and difficulty walking.
More than that though, I’ve been feeling very vulnerable. A few days after the dislocation, I fell over. I tripped on a kerb and pitched straight forward to the floor. A string of obscenities flew from my mouth and my fall felt like it was happening in slow motion because, for the entire descent, I was terrified that my hip was going to pop out again. It wasn’t fun.
My dad taught me self-defence when I was a teenager, I’ve been training in martial arts for 16 years, many of those years at elite level, and I’m a 4th Dan black belt. Training, and coaching, has been such a huge part of my life for such a long time; it defines who I am.
And now I’m relegated to the side lines.
I’m worried that I won’t get back to my former level. That this may spell the end of high-risk, high-torque kicks. This is going to be a difficult journey, so I’m going to have to be very good and follow the advice of my therapist!
Now I truly, deeply understand how my clients feel when I explain their treatment plan to them. Their fears, their frustrations, and their temptation to rush back to the sport they love. But, just like with my clients, I’m not in this alone. I have the support of my therapist, who reassures me that I will get back to where I was before, and I have a wealth of advice from him and a plan to follow.
And I’m going to take you with me on my journey…
Dealing with an injury: Weeks 4-5 – getting my head in gear!
I’ve been having two massage treatments a week. Harry and James have been working hard to reset my muscles, and it’s helped massively with my pain management. I really don’t like taking pain killers, so anything that helps me to avoid taking tablets is a very good thing. The amount of pain I am in has gradually reduced, and although it’s still niggling, still reminding me of what I’ve done, it’s OK, and it’s become manageable.
The past three weeks have been tough.
The physical side of my recovery is planned and underway. But no one warns you about the impact an injury has on your mental health. I certainly had no idea. I wrote about feeling vulnerable; it’s made me feel very low too; I have struggled to sleep; I have been feeling very emotional; I have felt that I am of less value, less worth. I haven’t felt like me at all.
I’m beginning to feel better now that I have some positive steps forward. Last week, I was allowed to do some mobilisation exercises. Nothing major or exciting really, just pelvic tilts, but it felt like a big step forward. This week, I’ve moved on to glute activation and strengthening exercises – bridges – which will progress to single leg bridges. Again, not much, but mentally so much better than the dreaded ‘complete rest’.
I realised that my language choices around my injury had become very negative… “I can’t”, ‘I’m not allowed”, “It’s so frustrating”, so I have made a conscious effort to change the way I speak and think about this period of time. I’m looking for the positives… “It’s an ideal opportunity to resume my good stretching habits”, “This will give me more empathy and understanding when it comes to my clients’ injuries”, “It’ll give my black belts a chance to develop their teaching skills”; it’s made me assess the quality of the verbal instructions I give in class, as I can’t demonstrate whilst I talk, so (hopefully!) I am becoming clearer in what I am verbally teaching.
I am also feeling more optimistic. I know that my single leg bridges will lead on to RDL’s, which in turn will lead on to another step forward. I have had the ‘carrot-on-a-stick’ dangled in front of me of a small amount of cardio work when the strengthening work has done its job. Only 10 minutes at half warm-up pace initially, but adding that on to the strengthening exercises and stretching will give me a reason to go to the gym. That is huge.
I haven’t set foot in the gym since my hip dislocated. I didn’t want to see other people happily (or not!) working out and sweating, knowing I couldn’t join in. But now I am excited by the thought that soon, I will have a workout plan. It may not be the plan I was on before, but it’ll be a step in the right direction.
And it’s such a huge relief.
Eight weeks later… noticing the difference
I’m noticing definite progress now with my hip. I know it’s getting better because sometimes I forget about it all together. I’ll go to run upstairs or jump over something (usually my dog!) and I’ll receive a reminder, a twinge from my glutes and hamstring, telling me to take it easy, and to let my body heal.
I can do everyday things like going for a walk, driving, moving around, without fear and, although I still feel discomfort, the pain has all but gone. Instead of pain, I feel my muscles’ tiredness - they ache at the end of the day, but that means I’m using them, so they must be beginning to work properly again.
My hip still feels unstable and my balance is nowhere near what it should be on that leg, but again, I remind myself not to push too hard too fast, to allow it to heal and strengthen.
I’m also able to do a bit of Taekwondo training. Modified, of course. There’s no kicking for me yet and it all has to be carefully done! But it feels good to be able to put my dobok on and work through some mobility exercises with the class, as well as practising my hand techniques.
It’s the pivoting and twisting that I’m wary of, that I need to modify the most. I have decided that, when I get the ‘go ahead’ to resume training properly, I shall begin with slow motion techniques, remind my body how to perform the moves safely and correctly, and ease myself mentally back into feeling physically safe and able to train too.
Harry has spoken with me already about the mental side of recovery, as I told him that I was worried I’d end up with a fear of performing the kick that caused this mishap, that a dislocation might happen again. He reassures me that I’ll actually come out of this stronger than I was before, so it’ll be far less likely to happen again.
As long as I follow the rehab plan!
So, I need to remind myself not to be complacent now, and not to fall into the trap of overdoing things, not to rush to do what I was capable of doing before.
Just because the pain has diminished, it’s so very important that I still remember that I’m rehabbing a very serious injury. ‘Self-control’ and ‘Indomitable Spirit’ are two of the tenets of Taekwondo, part of the moral code that martial artists live by, and I’m really living by these at the moment!
Thanks for reading, and if you have any questions or comments I’d love to hear from you, so do get in touch.
Sports massage therapist, Leamington Spa
4th Dan black belt, Taekwon-Do
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