Yogi Heal Thyself – so far, so good

So friends, it’s been a while since I’ve written anything about the journey to heal my knee, or at least to alleviate the pain and prevent further degeneration, so a quick re-cap coming up:

Following the conclusion from the establishment that there was nothing that could be done, apart from offer a steroid injection, I have been exploring other ways of helping myself.  All along, I have thought it more sensible to try to establish what’s been causing the problem, and remove or improve the issue, rather than just treat the actual knee itself – unfortunately not the view of my consultant!  We know that arthritis simply means inflammation in the joint, so I’ve been playing around with food and herbs that can help ease and reduce inflammation – an opportunity to cook lots of wonderful curries with turmeric, ginger and chillies – happy days!

So far, so good.  My physiotherapist and my chiropractor have both said that my right hip has lots of anterior rotation, and that the knee is tracking out of line.  Both suggest that the hip is causing the knee to have this misalignment, causing the extrusion of the meniscus (ouch), and the wearing of the joint at the side and back of the knee (super ouch).

Hmm, OK then, that was a theory I was happy to work with, seems to make sense, yes?  But why is the hip rotating forwards, I started to wonder.  I’ve never had a serious accident or injury that would slam it forwards, no babies, so nothing strange happened to my pelvis in child birth.  I’ve known for a long time that my pelvis tilts at an angle, making the right leg seem slightly longer than the left – previous physios have termed it ‘an unstable pelvis’ -but why?  Let’s just leave that thought there for a moment.

In September, I was lucky enough to attend a workshop lead by Gary Carter, of Natural Bodies.  Gary is known around the world for his work on yoga, structural integration and movement, and in that particular workshop we were focusing on anatomy of the pelvis.  As we worked and explored movement, and really started to focus on the feeling and space created in the pelvis by small movements in other parts of the body, something started to occur to me.  Gary’s belief is that alignment through the body truly starts with the feet.  Indeed, try spreading the edges of the skin on your feet out to your foot bones (I know, it sounds weird, but you can do it!) – keep your hands on your hip bones, and notice what happens.  You actually make a bit of space in the pelvis.  At the end of the workshop, I asked Gary for a bit of personal advice – could the knee alignment, and thus the rotation of the right hip be being caused by my foot – was the problem travelling upwards, rather than downwards.

In Gary’s opinion, quite simply, yes.  I had noticed that my right foot had a tendency to turn out, but I hadn’t really thought about why.  Definitely worth an exploration on this journey, I’m thinking.  Meanwhile, Gary’s suggestion was to find ways to make space in the knee joint, remove some compression to relieve the pain.  This also makes a lot of sense – many of the exercises recommended by physios and chiropractors are based around strengthening and building muscles, which could actually increase compression in the joint (but don’t stop doing them kids, if that’s what your physio has told you to do!).  My plan for later this year is to have an appointment at Natural Bodies with Gary to try and find ways of making space in the knee joint – watch this space for that update.

So anyway, back to the foot/knee/hip connection.  I decided to go along and visit a podiatrist and see what he thought about the idea that the foot was the root of all evil.  I’m sure you already know where this is going, but guess what gang?  He agreed!  Yes, indeed – sort the pesky foot out and things would be better.

So my lovely podiatrist Chris set about watching me walk, checking the alignment in my feet and ankles and so on.  He then pointed out the external rotation in my right foot, and the corresponding collapsed medial arch (instep to most of us).  It would seem that my foot rotates externally far too much, and if it were possible to walk that way, I would end up walking on the outside edge of the foot.  Instead, my body is compensating by rotating the foot inwards too much, causing the medial arch to collapse.  This is making the knee roll in, as it’s not getting any support from the foot (remember the idea the alignment in the body comes from the feet upwards?), and the hip is also rotating forwards.  No wonder my poor knee hurts!

Chris made me some temporary orthotics to try for a month, and then some permanents once he had examined the wear on the temporaries.  We agreed that I would keep the permanents in my trainers, as it’s during high impact exercise classes that the foot and knee need most support.  I’ve got some more temporaries on much slimmer soles to interchange in some boots and pumps that I wear during the day; but Chris’s advice is to not wear them constantly.  It does change the biomechanics of the body, and can take some getting used to.  But I love the feeling of working out with the orthotics in place – my foot and knee definitely feel supported, and I am mostly pain free right now 🙂

I recommend exploring this for yourself if you’ve never considered it.  Orthotics can be a bit costly (mine were £80), but so worth it.

So that’s where we are right now.  If you are on a similar journey, I hope you are making progress too.  Let me know, and share what’s working for you.  Until next time, Love and Light.

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