Gemma Almond is the DDH UK Patron and is today on the blog talking about hip dysplasia and pain, something she has encountered as a Paralympic swimmer.
We think it is a brave, inspiring read and hope you do too.
I thought I would start with the difficult topic, and I am not sure how best to approach it in a positive manner.
Pain is something that is discussed extensively across the forum. I think DDH and pain come hand in hand. Although I cannot remember any pain I experienced in my childhood I know it was there – and it was recorded in one of my hospital appointments with my surgeon that ‘Gemma said she was fine, however, her mum stated that she often complained of pain’.
Clearly, by the age of eight I no longer considered pain as being ‘not fine’ because for me pain had become normal.
The pain I now experience can be separated into two key forms: a dull ache (I would say it is similar to an elastic band being tied really tight around your pelvis and upper legs) and the grinding or clicking bone on bone sharp pain. The latter is definitely worse than the former and is not so constant. But (and this is a big but!) over the years, I have learnt the importance of paying attention to pain levels and, more importantly, that it can be managed.
I adopt a simple philosophy: when my legs are bad I do less, and when they are good I do more. This can be frustrating as unfortunately you cannot completely control this and, therefore, it is possible that you may have planned to spend a significant amount of time on your feet on a day that turns out to be a bad one.
However, most of the time it works and I have tracked and recorded pain levels – I know, for example, I usually experience a couple of weeks of feeling better and then I’m likely to have a particularly bad week.
Monitoring my pain also helped me to learn what sort of activities aggravated my joints such as standing for long periods having a more adverse long-term effect than walking.
I also learnt how to reduce the effects of certain activities, such as using a stick to reduce shock and weight if I needed to walk any distance.
The key thing I learnt to remember was that pain would often occur and peak the next day or the one after that, rather than the day of, and I learnt to brace myself for a particularly bad patch if I experienced pain at the actual time! However, realising this also helped me ensure that I never did anything too strenuous two days in a row.
Ultimately, monitoring and understanding what aggravates my joints has meant that I have been able to make the most of my good days and do things I didn’t think possible, such as climbing the below mountain this summer, and below is the picture to prove it!
How to overcome or reduce pain is heavily discussed across the forum, and it is completely individual which is why monitoring becomes so important. If it is really bad I might consider ibuprofen but that is about as strong as I am prepared to go, primarily because I prefer to know, and not mask, it. Also, if I know I am going to have a day on my feet I sometimes anticipate the effect it could have and take ibuprofen to help reduce inflammation from the start but they are probably the only two scenarios in which I use it.
Otherwise I prefer to apply heat, such as a wheat bag, have a lot of baths to soak my joints, and swim to try to help loosen everything off. Pain can be a hard and lonely experience, especially when it prevents you from sleeping at night, and I think that is one of the many benefits of this group. I don’t think we can truly fight pain, but we can support each other and learn to manage it and lead a good quality of life.
Most importantly I try to remember that I cannot remember the pain I experienced ten years ago, and I know that things can and will get better so it will, again, one day become another distant memory.
If I can answer any questions, get in touch with DDH UK and I will be happy to help.