SI Joint Fusion :: Week Nine — Rehab Road


All too often it goes like this:


I’m hungry.

There’s nothing substantial to eat in the house.

I decide what I could prepare without too much hassle.

I go to the store to get what I need.

I come home to realize that I forgot to run the dishwasher and there are no clean utensils or plates.

I start hand washing what I need but figure I should refrigerate what I just bought.

I open the refrigerator to find that it needs to be cleaned out.

I make room for my groceries and continue to do what’s required for the food prep.

About two hours from my first hunger pang, I’m eating.


Needless to say, there was more to feeding myself than met the eye.


I tell this story because it reminds me of my 30-year search for an end to my chronic pain. Finding solutions to pain problems is usually a complicated endeavor. In my case, I finally learned that I had a disrupted SI joint capsule on my right side, and in all likelihood I also had torn or badly stretched ligaments. I firmly believe that this is the reason that all the wonderful things like PT and core strengthening did very little to solve my problem. If you’ll allow me to create a metaphor from the above story, I was washing the dishes and cleaning out the fridge without going to the grocery store. No matter how much you prepare for a meal, the bottom line is that you’re not going to have anything to cook if you don’t go to the supermarket. I think for me, stabilizing my SI joint was akin to filling my grocery cart with food.


All that to say, surgery wasn’t the end for me; it was the beginning. It gave me a ticket back to square one. Now I can work on resetting all the compensatory patterns I’ve been entrenched in for 30 years, and that’s not easy to change. My muscle memory is in need of a major case of amnesia.


I’m not gonna lie: There’s a temptation to want to get it all figured out before I write about it. But I’ve decided that letting it unfold in plain view is probably the better approach. You don’t need someone to tell you all the answers; there are no standard answers. I can’t emphasize that enough. But we all need to be reminded that we can find our own answers if we’ll avail ourselves to the process. I availed myself to the process while I was researching doctors and treatments and surgeries (there’s an explanation of that here.) Now, nine weeks post-op, I’m availing myself to moving forward from square one. All along I’ve intuitively known that if I could ever get the instability addressed, I would need some sort of rehab. A surgeon’s knife doesn’t magically erase 30 years of musculoskeletal dysfunction.


So I’m back with another empty cart (which is different than the one I started with.)


Physical therapy seemed like a logical place to start. So I set about finding the right therapist for me (gone are the days of passively floating to the clinic that the system funnels me in to.We cannot afford to be passive.) A yoga teacher/friend told me I should find a place that does manual, hands-on therapy, as opposed to the physical therapy where they put you on a bike or a mat or a treadmill and leave you there to do your time. I came up with five places relatively nearby and emailed them all. Three didn’t answer, one was very iffy on SI Joint fusions, and the last one was fantastic. They had a therapist call me, I instantly liked her, and I have my next appointment with her today. I’m telling you all this because I’m really, really hopeful about this clinic, and about the direction they’re taking me. So far I’ve seen two therapists and a massage therapist (they have a collective 65 years of experience.) And all three said they felt like the most beneficial thing for me at this stage of the game would be myofascial release. Though I’ve had it done by a few massage therapists, I know very little about the theories behind it. So I immediately channeled my energy into researching myofascial release. As a result, now I can totally see how this could be a major source of my pain. (Notice I didn’t say, “the” source of my pain. Just a reminder.)


My PT recommended that I watch the YouTube video, “Strolling Under the Skin” and it made so, SO much sense to me. The fascia is a thin, web-like substance that’s woven throughout our bodies. It covers everything from muscles to organs. According to those who’ve carefully studied it, fascia can get sticky and trapped, thus severely limiting our range of motion and freedom of movement. Some believe it actually “locks down” our muscles and organs in response to our fight or flight reflex, or because the body is trying to stabilize itself. Of course there are those who think that myofascial release is quackery (just like there are those who think SI joint fusions are quackery. And you know what I think about that.) My M. O. is to keep an open mind without throwing myself at things that promise the moon and deliver a glow stick.


Anyway, I’ve had one myofascial release session and the areas she worked on (mainly my quads and knee) are much more malleable than they were. Will this be the next big piece of my healing puzzle? Of course I don’t know for sure. But reading about the physiology of the fascia makes me wonder: Does having frozen fascia play a part in my Fibromyalgia? Is this why five years of yoga hasn’t resulted in a resting ease in my musculature? I mean, even though yoga has been phenomenal for me over the last five years, I still have a chronic tightness in my muscles (especially leg muscles.) Could it be that my muscle rigidity is less about the actual muscles and more about what encases them? Thankfully, my insurance is making it possible to find out. We shall see.


But myofascial release isn’t the only thing we’re working on in therapy. My PT said that my psoas and iliacus muscles are hella tight because they, too, have been doing more than their fair share of the stabilization work. They are pulling me way forward. I am working daily to release these muscles and I am also starting core strengthening work (which is different than any other core work I’ve ever done. Meet hypopressives.)


So I’m back to being a guinea pig, and I couldn’t be happier about it. This may lead nowhere, it may lead to the healing that I’ve always dreamed of, or it may lead me to a place that’s located somewhere in between the two extremes. I’m good with all of it, because I know if it leads nowhere, I’m going to keep seeking. And even if it makes a little difference, I’ll take it. It all adds up.


Stay tuned. I have a good feeling about this.


Photo by Polycart, licensed under Flickr Creative Commons. No changes made.