Beating Arthritis, my story!
For those who know me or read my socials, you will know I had to retire from professional sport due to an unsuccessful hip arthroscopy and labral repair to my left hip. However, it turned out that I may never have needed the operation at all. In fact, my right hip, which showed similar damage on the scan before the surgery, is excellent, and I've never had an issue since retiring from rugby. However, my left hip has been a different story.
Over the last 18 months (four years post-surgery), I have developed an approach that has seen drastic improvements in my pain levels and mobility through extensive research and testing on myself. As a result, I've been competing in endurance events such as ultra-marathons and ironman triathlons, all relatively pain-free!! And to say that surgeons and specialists country-wide recommended I take pain relief, strong gut-damaging anti-inflammatory drugs, limit my movement and wait until the inevitable day of a hip replacement.
It is utterly baffling to me now, knowing what I have found out. It says something is profoundly wrong with the medical industry if this is the prescription that veteran specialists recommended to me to live my life. Well, it is quite the contrary and why I want to tell others what I did and how it has helped me to recover from my daily struggles and led me to lead a fulfilled life once again. If these methods helped me, then they surely will help others. Not only that, I hope the paradigm shifts in the direction that regular controlled movements are better for arthritic joints than sitting around, letting the muscles atrophy and joints calcify. To then wait for the inevitable, which in my opinion, is no life at all.
At 28, I went under the knife in what I was told would be a 'routine', Arthroscopy, acetabulum and femoral head reshaping and labral tear repair. A red flag should have been raised as the procedure's name is oxymoronic. I later discovered that the recovery rates of such operations were woeful at best, but by this point, it was too late. The medical staff and support should have done more, and so should I to fully understand the procedure. But I was young and felt invincible. This, however, is an entire story and one I may tell in another blog. After a few months of physiotherapy post-surgery, the result was constant pain and sleepless nights. It was doubtful that I would play professionally again. And I didn't. I was released.
This is where my road to recovery began. Without the medical support from the club and private health care, I decided to get several opinions from consultants. As a result, I underwent multiple CT, and MRI scans the 2 years after retirement, which involved a lot of waiting around, especially during a pandemic. It was in between these periods of waiting and uncertainty that I decided no one was going to help me, so I had to start to learn how to regain function myself.
I was already adept in human physiology. I was a level 4 PT, played rugby all my life and read about the subject while studying engineering at university. Understanding the human body & biology was and still is a passion of mine, so while my degree wasn't in this field. I still consumed as much information as possible to help me understand my body which helped me know what options I had moving forward.
I started by fully understanding the surgery to help visualise what was happening in my hip. So if I felt pain or discomfort during the rehabilitation process, I could identify what may have caused it and then adjust appropriately in the following sessions.
Hip Arthroscopy, acetabulum and femoral head reshaping and labral tear repair. AKA the OP!
The name is hugely wordy and complex, like all medical names are. But essentially, the procedure was to smooth my non-uniform head of the femur, which should sit neatly in the complementary socket (acetabulum). Then, repair some of the damage caused by the impact of the two surfaces (labarum tear) over the years of attrition from playing rugby. Think rotary tool, a file, some resin, and you are not far away.
After getting my imagery through and understanding the surgery, there appeared to be some detritus in the already packed socket joint and definite signs of early onset arthritis. So I concluded and still believe the material was the failure of the unconventional resin or glue used to repair my labrum. Arthritis and pain in my joint were due to the abrasion of this material within the socket space.
So, where do I go from here?
I asked myself. And decided to firstly make space within the joint. Because more space would allow for less abrasion and smother joint movement, which at the very least would slow down arthritis. There are several reasons why your hip doesn't fit neatly in the socket; some are genetics, which in my case is unfortunate but not unsolvable. And the others are down to a lack of muscular control and development around the core, lower back, glutes, groins and hamstrings, quads and lower limb. So I thought to myself, if I could gain function and control in these areas, I could reset my hip posture to a more normal position. I was, however, starting from ground zero after being immobile for the best part of a year and in constant pain. In addition, my muscle wastage was massive, which only exaggerated my symptoms further. My goal was to get to a point where I had more movement and less pain while waiting on the surgery list to remove the detritus in the joint.
My initial routine
- Cross leg meditation for 10 minutes. (I couldn't even cross my legs for the first month, so I just got as close as possible )
- Banded distractions (see below some examples). Tie a thick looped band around a fixed point, and your foot and sit down and move away, increasing the tension in the band until you feel the femur pull slightly out of the joint and sit for 2 minutes ( research shows that 2 minutes is the optimal time your body requires to adapt to a new position or stretch) . Before starting any exercises, I did this at the foot, the inner thigh, under the glutes, and around my hips.(banded hip distractions images add here)
- Banded Glute activations in all planes of motion.
- 15 minutes of body weight and light band Strengthening work without shoes on, focusing on the areas mentioned earlier (the core, lower back, glutes, groins, hamstrings, quads and lower limbs)
A month had passed, and I saw some vast improvements, so much so that I came off my pain medications (codeine phosphate) and anti-inflammatory drugs (Naproxen). Of course, there was an expected adjustment period after I did this. Still, I continued with the protocol for another month. Used my body's pain response during and after the session to determine how much I could push myself. It is crucial to understand your limitations. Having a notebook to jot down how the pain was during and after helped make it more challenging when I needed to and take the foot off when the pain got too much.
Things then began to plateau somewhat around month three. I added more weight to the regime. Started to incorporate asymmetrical movements on uneven surfaces. This challenges my proprioceptive muscles, which can lie dormant. Incremental changes were being seen now, but Still, I had seen enough improvements to galvanise me to dig deeper. And find something I could add to the protocol to gain more function and reduce pain even more.
I went down hundreds of rabbit holes during this period and came out of 12 with confidence I could get further gains.
The 13 methods, 12 I used and one I am still hoping to use in the future...
- Eating an anti-inflammatory diet low in contaminates and toxins.
- Gut & blood testing with analysis.
- peptide therapy - Bpc 157 & TB500 12 week protocol.
- Anti-inflammatory Botanical & essential oil mixtures.
- Mushroom blends. Chaga, lions mane, reishi, turkey tail, maitake.
- Red light therapy.
- Cryotherapy & cold water Exposure.
- Drinking only filtered water from a faucet installed in my house.
- Barefoot walking and grounding.
- Electromagnetic therapy.
- Methylene Blue.
- StemCell therapy.
Many people will think this is all a bunch of BS. Coming from a scientific background, I was skeptical too. Still, the results were unbelievable once I started to see all these methods work in tandem. At this point, I decided I needed to spread this message, and I started my company True Athletic Fitness. To coach others with what I had learnt over the previous year.
I offer most of the protocols above through my website, TAFIT. However, the three most effective methods I still use today are red light therapy, gut testing and dietary changes.
I will go into all these methods in another blog and explain why and how they helped me and are so effective. I used all except for stem cell therapy. Because it is hugely expensive, I hope in future I can travel to Mexico to get this done and see a 90-100% recovery of my injury.
After another 12 weeks of using the above approach and intensifying my rehab. I reached a point where I could run across the country with an ultra marathon friend of mine, Matthew Dyas, on Hadrian's wall coast-to-coast ultra trail route. A total of 73 miles or 117km over 2 days. You can listen to the podcast after the run here.
Today, I can do 90% of the things I did before without pain or worry of injury. Considering I am still on a waiting list for surgery is an incredible result and one which can be applied to other people and injuries. I also expect to compete in the sandman half iron triathlon on the 10th of September. And I'm more passionate than ever about helping others recover in a way that I did. At true athletic, we are currently working with universities and sporting facilities to help their athletes to perform at their peak for longer. To recover quicker using our products and services.
Are you suffering in pain and silence or have nowhere else to turn? Why not reach out to me or one of the team email firstname.lastname@example.org or DM us on socials @trueathleticfitness or on my personal page @tarmstrong89 on Instagram! Everyone can benefit from these methods. I will outline my protocols further in another blog, or feel free to contact and ask me what I did, and I will be happy to speak to you.
Have a great rest of your week and never give up; there is always a way.