For the last four years, I have had extra bone in my hips. Not a lot, just a few chunks totalling a golf ball or so on either side. But they are positioned exactly where I don’t want them, which is at the crease in my hips. Since a month after I broke my spine, these chunks have been a barricade in my movement, a disruption in my connective tissue pathways.
For 1500 days I have had anywhere from a very low to a pretty intense pain in my hips when I sit with a flexed hip – and for someone who uses a wheelchair as his primary way to get around, that’s a big problem. In a couple of hours, I am having some of this bone cut out of me, and I’m totally excited about it.
Yes, the guy who for years refused any kind of invasive surgery has decided voluntarily to go under the knife for the first time since his 11-hour long spinal fusion four years ago.
So, how did the bone get there?
It is a result of the original neurological trauma. It’s not uncommon after spinal cord injury. The body freaks out. Cells that are supposed to clean up excess bone have a schizophrenic fit and start putting down more bone instead. (Um, thanks?) It’s actually the body’s way of protecting itself from the dangerous instability of paralysis by stabilizing joints that no longer have muscle firing around them.
As I told a friend recently who asked, humans did not evolve alongside methods of mindful movement designed to restore and refine function. Our Mesopotamian farmer ancestors didn’t have Pilates.
Why didn’t I have the bone removed sooner?
Because I very simply did not want to disrupt the tissues in my body more than I already have. Our bodies have an incredible amount of communication present within them – nerve impulses, of course, but there is also information shared via mechanical load through connective tissue and muscle, chemical signals through our circulation, and I'm sure many other ways I don’t know or that we’re still discovering.
Making an incision and digging through tissues to remove bone fragments is a very traumatic event to the hips. I don’t know exactly which pathways I use to move my legs. It’s not only nerve signals, otherwise I’d have much more voluntary control. So, it’s some combination of ways that only my body knows. A secret message encoded in a language I can only understand through feeling it – like the pleasure you feel from watching a sunrise from a mountaintop. It’s not something you can simply explain. It has to be felt.
Well, beyond the superficial-level qualities like involvement of entire fascial chains, reflex responses to gravity, and self-organized patterning of movements, no one can really explain how the human body works and why. Certainly not for a paralyzed person who has regained some function. Just like in physics, we don’t have a Grand Unifying Theory – just a lot of fascinating puzzle pieces that fit together somehow, some way…
This is a long-winded way of saying that before I allowed myself to be worked on like a car whose clogged fuel line simply needs cleaning and fixing, I wanted to make sure I tried every NON-INVASIVE strategy I could, first.
First, medications prescribed by the medical system. Studies are speculative at best on their effectiveness to halt bone growth.
Movement. Once I was out of the hospital, lots and lots of movement. Simple activity wasn’t enough.
Acupuncture, laying of hands, Chinese herbs and a bevy of homeopathics.
IV infusion of a bone-limiter which had some journal article support. I reacted to this infusion when I had it a few years ago and ended up in the ER for a night. Fun.
Pulsed electromagnetic frequency (PEMF). I used this device which created a little vortex of healing power around the circular ring. Great for scar tissue, apparently not for bone.
Shockwaves. I found papers on a particular shockwave procedure and coordinated for months with the researcher. Had one procedure before insurance realized what exactly we were doing and pulled support. This helped the pain but no noticeable range-of-motion improvement.
I visited a pioneer in the field of laser medicine, Dr Kahn, at his Toronto clinic. Laser therapy also helped the pain in my hips but nothing for range-of motion.
Each of these had its own saga of development attached to it and each was its own part-time job while I was researching and coordinating. It was absolutely worth it to see what I could find, despite not discovering the relief I needed through a non-invasive route.
Now, I am prepared to undergo surgery for what I know this can do for my function. How I sit, stand, squat, move. The bone impacts my hip range, and therefore my spine, which translates to all movement. So, I’m incredibly excited about this. The ends will, I am completely confident, justify these means.
I made sure my surgeon knows how I feel about connection in my body, and I’ve been visualizing for weeks what success and ease-of-healing will come from this. I’m ready to go!