When muscle strength finally takes over for weak ligaments

posterior_hip_muscles_3

So, I think I’m finally at the point in my recovery that seemed like a dream when people first described it to me five years ago:

The point at which I’d finally develop enough muscle strength to make up for the fact that the ligaments that are supposed to hold my SI joint together have been stretched out, and are no longer doing their job.

It’s funny how it doesn’t feel the way I expected.  I didn’t know I was developing sufficient muscle strength, in large part because it appears my too-frequent chiropractic adjustments were masking my progress.

But now that I’ve stopped having any adjustments to the low back/pelvis (except for my own self-adjustments using the Muscle Energy Technique), and my joints aren’t constantly being thrown out of alignment, I can sense that I’ve reached a new equilibrium.

I’m afraid to say this lest I jinx myself, but my SI joints are still in place.  I’ve lost count of the number of months it’s been since they truly shifted out of place.  Probably close to 6.

I’m still very much aware of my SI joints, in a way that I never was before I first developed this problems.  I can still feel them move.

Before my initial injury, I was like most people– I wasn’t even aware that I had a joint at that part of my body.  Had never heard of it.

Now, I’m a little closer to moving the way I once was.  I can twist and pick something up off the floor without it being directly in front of me.  I can sit on someone’s worn-out couch and feel myself sink in, without anything moving out of place.   These were things I could not to do for years.

The difference is that right now, I can still feel motion in the joint while I do all of these things, whereas I never used to.

***

I know my SI joints will probably never completely go back to the way they were.  I will never be able to forget about them; I will most likely always notice them shift.

Although ligaments can heal after being sprained, and recover to an extent, they never really regain all of their function once they’ve been stretched outside of their normal range of motion.  That is why the bones that make up the SI joint — the ilia and the sacrum– are moving more, in relation to each other, than they had before my injury.  Those ligaments will probably never tighten back up completely.

The difference is that now, when these bones shift, something prevents them from moving so far out of place that it affects my ability to walk.  And I believe that something is muscle strength.  If my ligaments were fully intact, I probably wouldn’t notice the joint move so much.  But luckily now my muscles are strong enough that they can act like a giant safety net, keeping things from getting too far out of place.

The numerous physical therapists and chiropractors I’ve seen along the way have all told me this was the goal.  To build up enough muscle strength that eventually, my joints will stay lined up the way they’re supposed to be lined up; stable.

I of course know better than to say this problem is completely over.  I’m still extremely careful every time I move, and it will probably be a few months before I dare try running.

But at least I know that I’m here, and I know what it feels like.  That’s why am putting my experience out there for anyone else struggling to get to this point.

I can’t say for sure that it’s possible for everyone to fully recover, or that there is no need to consider surgery.  I think a lot of that has to do with the degree of the initial injury, and the extent to which your ligaments were damaged.

But in my case, it seems that a combination of factors– learning to adjust my own joints, changing the way I move, and developing enough muscle strength to compensate for my strained ligaments have finally come together to get me to this point, five years later.

There have definitely been times when I thought the whole situation was hopeless, and wondered if I’d be dealing with this for my entire life.

That is why I’m so grateful to have made it as far as I have, and why I am determined to share what I’ve learned with you.

I’ll be sharing much more in future posts!

Illustration Credit: Courtesy of Beth Ohara, via Wikipedia

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