It’s ironic, I’ve lived with chronic pain for at least 7 years…but didn’t know it.

A few months ago, I read the radiologist’s report of an MRI for my left hip. I had my hip scanned as I thought I had a torn labrum but the imaging told a different story. Labrum (the cartilage rim on the edge of the cup side of the hip joint)? What labrum? The joint is decimated. It looks like someone went in with an ice pick and chipped, flaked, abraded and destroyed my coxal (hip) joint.

  • Inflammation, check.
  • Osteoarthritis, check.
  • Bone cysts, check.
  • Chondromalacia, check.
  • Bone spurs, check.

My orthopedist further translated for me: I am a perfect candidate for total hip replacement.

Total?

My hip will be totally replaced.

When my orthopedist did a standard range of motion test on me, he rolled my right hip around in the socket like it was a pinwheel in the breeze. My left hip traced a similar path, but was 20% less the range. He contemplated out loud…”well, there’s your pre-existing condition right there.” We locked eyes and mouthed the words at the same time, “hip hypermobility.”

Inside my brain and body, I whisked through a timeline that scrolled through decades of dance, yoga, fitness and all the things I did to stretch myself into exhilarated states or mental quiet. I started to confess to my surgeon my own self-diagnosis of “overuse,” but cut my monologue off. He’s the fixer, not the detective.

But the detector in me is now on a new mission to sift through the decades of my life and identify moments of crisis where I think my movement patterns, or my emotional patterns pushed me to move to a threshold with such vehement regularity that I remodeled a hip that ultimately couldn’t survive the assault.

My therapist tried to stop me from further blaming myself for my chronic hip pain. “Perhaps it’s genetic,” he said. “No one in my family has had their hips replaced. I built this city,” I insisted. My pre-existing genetic condition was to move and stretch myself compulsively to stifle the emotional stresses I felt as a constant in my body. I’m not enough, not perfect enough, not smart enough, not nice enough, not pretty enough, not worthy. My yoga and stretching could quiet me like a quart of bourbon could silence my ancestors. It could take off just enough of the edge to get by. But I was building a new edge. I built an irregular surface with organic stalagmites and stalactites that mismatched one another. New body teeth that chewed through synovial membranes…the gums and saliva of my hip joint. My need to grind out my frustration wore a new pattern of tread into a hip capsule made fragile by multiple ankle injuries in my teens and twenties. My pre-existing condition was a belief that I could do more, be more and accomplish more if only I did more. More was more and I needed to move constantly upon that moor in order to survive my life.

When did I first feel the real pain? Somehow I was led to stop stretching myself from limb to limb around 2003/4. That was when I consciously named my work Yoga Tune Up® and pulled back on a practice of daily asana (yoga poses). I turned to anatomy texts instead of yogic texts for information. I started working on the particulars of my movements. I had to re-examine my addiction to stretching. My dependency on my yoga practice was shackling me to the mat and consuming up to 2 hours every morning, if I didn’t practice, I didn’t feel right in my skin. Going without my ritual left me feeling unhinged, irritable and anxious. My need to stretch was no longer expanding my mind, it had trapped it.

Tune in for part 2 of this series, where I examine the mysterious behavior of chronic pain. I ponder how imaging, diagnosis and embodied experience can often be completely out of step with one another.

Follow my hip surgery journey on INSTA or FB with this hashtag #TheRollReModel

Liked this article? Read It’s A Pain in The Core! Life After Spinal Surgery

 

Jill Miller

Jill Miller, C-IAYT, ERYT is the co-founder of Tune Up Fitness Worldwide and creator of the self-care fitness formats Yoga Tune Up® and The Roll Model® Method. With more than 30 years of study in anatomy and movement, she is a pioneer in forging relevant links between the worlds of fitness, yoga, massage, athletics and pain management. She is known as the Teacher’s Teacher and has trained thousands of movement educators, clinicians, and manual therapists to incorporate her paradigm shifting self-care fitness programming into athletic and medical facility programs internationally. She has crafted original programs for 24 Hour Fitness, Equinox, YogaWorks, and numerous professional sports teams. She and her team of 500+ trainers help you to live better in your body with an emphasis on proprioception, mobility, breath mechanics and recovery. She has presented case studies at the Fascia Research Congress and International Association of Yoga Therapy conferences. She has the rare ability to translate complex physiological and biomechanical information into accessible, relevant moves that help her students transform pain, dysfunction and injury into robust fitness. Jill is the anatomy columnist for Yoga Journal Magazine and has been featured in Shape, Men’s Journal, Good Housekeeping, Women’s Health, Yoga Journal, Self, and on the Today Show and Good Morning America. Jill is regularly featured on the Oprah Winfrey Network. She is the creator of dozens of DVD’s including Treat While You Train with Kelly Starrett DPT and is the author of the internationally bestselling book The Roll Model: A Step by Step Guide to Erase Pain, Improve Mobility and Live Better in your Body. Based in Los Angeles, CA, she is a wife and mother of two small children and is currently writing her second book.

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Monika Bansal

Thank you Jill for sharing your story! I was really hooked on to it. It is inspiring and commendable how you have excelled and done so much work in self care. Every time I read about you or your article I learn something new. In today’s world of yoga, being able to twist and turn in all directions qualifies you to be a yoga teacher. I have seen this a lot in my country. We need to spread this awareness of not going crazy over mobility.

Diana Azavedo

Thank you for sharing your personal experience. It really makes one ponder on our own individual practice and if we are practicing ahimsa, tapas and satya in fulfilling ways. And if we are, how important it is to work with the one and only body we get this lifetime and mindful approach. Thank you so much for highlighting that the sheer important of learning our own human anatomy and on the way notice how fascinating this body is.

Sandeep

I think it’s so insightful for you to attribute your “pre-existing condition” to a personality trait rather than your anatomical makeup. So often we forget that we’re hooked up in different ways and that hypermobility isn’t necessarily your body’s way of telling you that because you CAN do something, you should. We forget that our bones are linked by ligaments that aren’t MEANT to be pushed to capacity, that aren’t MEANT to be stretched repeatedly. I think of the images I see on social media, of women who twist and pull themselves into different contorted poses, and I wonder if… Read more »

Shelley Piser

Hi Jill Welcome to the club My diagnosis was “shit happens” We are a generation of doers, athletes for a lifetime unlike previous generations who stopped in their 20’s (my parents born in 1926) It is humbling and balancing I try not to through the baby out with the bathwater in my conclusions … in an article I wrote called “the arrogance on Yoga” or for that matter of a generation where we believe that stuff doesnt happen to us. Big surprise and humbling. We live, we age, and eventually we die. I really could not imagine my life without… Read more »

Ashley Burger

A studio I just taught dance in made their students sit in straddle upon enter the room. They insisted sitting in straddle was making the more flexible and good for them. As I just started in this work, I am excited to see how I can use it in a dance warm-up to still have the same goals of increasing flexibility and aerobic facilitation, but in a safer way!

Bill D

Hi Jill I might have written a similar blog, Though much older than you, I teach yoga – mostly ashtanga -and recently had my right hip replaced. I had no problem practicing daily, it was issues with other activities that eventually pushed me to visit the orthopedist. It’s been four months since my right hip was replaced and though my practice is still far from what it was, it’s better that I expected and my ability to perform other activities, such as hiking, biking and tennis is much improved and pain free. I’m looking forward to reading about your journey.… Read more »

Rachelle

Thank you for being so vulnerable with us in your post. Sometimes the very things we use to fix ourselves, can break us. But you have identified it and will move forward in a better way. Good luck with recovery, I can’t wait to see what evolves in your practice from this experience.

Jane Thibodeau

Jill, thanks for sharing so openly. I constantly see overstretching and hypermobility in yoga classes. This is a great reminder why styles like YTU, that incorporate more anatomy, strengthening, and proper movement (not just stretching!) are so important to our long-term health and well-being. Thanks again for sharing, looking forward to Part 2!

Kalynn Evans

Hi Jill, I know I’m not the first to say, “me too” here, but me too, and thank you for posting about this. I am 28 and just had hip arthroscopy, arthroplasty, labrum tear repair 1 month ago. Even though this is not a fun experience and it’s been devastating, it has been enlightening. I’m happy I now have you to look up to for guidance on this subject! I searched for anything on this subject 2 months ago and didn’t find much help or understanding out there. Keep sharing your journey, it’s helping 🙂

Elaine

I was wondering if a 3D joint replacement is an available option for you. I have read that recovery is so much easier, and they ARE being done but do not know where or how prevalent. I know this is not that helpful but planting a seed of “what if”. Best to you!

David Klinzing

Hi Jill,

I have enjoyed your teachings and have personally benefited from them as have my personal training clients. I know surgery appears to be the correct choice for your situation. Wondering if you have ever heard of trainer Matt Hsu from San Francisco area. His business Upright Health has a program called FAI FIX. He has helped many women avoid surgery. I wish you all the best in your up coming journey. Peace.

randy

Jill, you have been such an inspiration to me from the first time we met in Glenn’s workshop at Omega (10-ish years ago?) It has been wonderful watching you pursue your passion and spread the knowledge of self care & simultaneously creating a wonderful business model. And you continue to inspire me with this candid & courageous narrative about the challenge you are now encountering with your health & hip – elaborating the somatic connection to the mind as well as your unique physiology – forever imparting your wisdom. Bonne chance with your surgery & “evolved” recovery – which hopefully… Read more »

Lia Montelongo

Thank you for your ability to share so candidly. It sounds that you see in your own physical body the history reflected from recurring ailments. Your story can help impact the youth in dance and fitness and inspire them to proper care and awareness of balanced training and rest. Great post! ??

Lindy

I have Ankylosing Spondylitis (inflammatory spinal arthritis), but I’ve been an aerialist for over 15 years. AS is often undiagnosed in women, and you don’t have to have the HLA-B27 gene to have it (I’m negative). For women, AS can cause inflammatory problems in different areas – cervical, ribs, and hips. I sometimes hear stories like this and wonder if this inflammatory condition (or something similar) could have been overlooked. I definitely have hip popping/sliding and have had problems with the more extreme hip openers. Since I knew this was an issue with AS, I’ve known to go more easy… Read more »

Katrina LK

I’m astounded at the ability of the human body to both degrade (one hip almost totally destroyed, yikes!) and yet continue to function! We live with such sub-optimal behaviours it’s amazing that we compensate and keep going. This article is so key for people with hypermobility and any kind of mover who pushes the body from sub-optimal non-moving behaviour to sub-optimal overstretched/overuse behaviour! Thanks Jill for continuing to be a role model to all of us, and best of luck with the surgery.

MAYNCOPP

Wow just Wow. I had THR this past June. I am a yoga practitioner/teacher, have practiced and taught martial arts, triathlon, etc. I used my body a lot. The pain started gradually and slowly became my constant companion. Your title is what was told to me: THR or continue with a life of chronic pain and pain meds (refused the meds). THR has changed my life! I had no idea how the pain was completely screwing up my life until it was gone. I now have amazing amounts of energy and am much nicer! The best comment was from my… Read more »

Catherine de Marin

Thank you Jill for your candor and offering your story to the YTU community. Also thank you to the many people who have shared their experience and resources. I believe telling our stories and sharing in this way can help prevent further injury and – of course – we learn from each other. Here is yet another resource many of you may be familiar with: http://matthewremski.com/wordpress/wawadia-main/ Matthew has been carefully compiling data on yoga injuries and myth busting for years now. I just completed the YTU Level 1 in August and Hip Immersion course last weekend. Coincidentally my hip has… Read more »

Naomi Rabinowitz

After I had my dance-related THR in 2003, I started a website for dancers and athletes to share their stories and provide support for others facing this surgery. Please visit dancerhips.com and consider adding your story.
I have had both hips replaced and can tell you that after THR you get your life back.

Elaine Jackson

Thank you for your honesty and your bravery in going public with your “hipstory.” I think you’ll be able to provide incredible support and innovative rehab to the huge number of other yoga teachers, dancers and athletes who are going through the same thing (or will be…). I’m looking forward to hearing more. Best of luck with your journey.

Jasmine

I found the emotional side of this really resonated with me. I think that many of us struggle with anxiety and self belief. I myself have turned to routines as a coping strategy for when I feel worked up, tense and stressed. Maybe we all choose a way of having control in the moment each with varying effects and damage. I wish you a safe operation and speedy recovery. You’re journey and practice has certainly helped me find a less damaging and calmer path.

Teresa

And what about from 2003 till now. Your body is overextended in so many ways Jill. Best of luck with the surgery. Take care of yourself.

Michaelle Edwards

Jill, here is the Study on elite dancers and hip architecture and usage research. http://www.arthroscopyjournal.org/article/S0749-8063(12)01755-0/abstract The hip joint is under a lot of stress in straight leg forward bends which drive the head of the femur into the acetabulum while the sockets are misaligned. The laxity created in the femur joint as well as the sacral lumbar lead to a lack of shock absorption during movement. for more information on yoga injuries see this website. http://www.yogainjuries.com If anyone has been injured from a yoga practice, please take the yoga injury survey. http://yogalign.com/yoga-injury-survey/ The results will be published soon to help… Read more »

Michaelle Edwards

Thank you for openly sharing and discussing your hip damage and upcoming joint replacement surgery. Although architecture is certainly a factor in hip osteoarthritis, bone spurs etc., a study comparing the hip joint of young elite dancers to the general public revealed that it was the usage rather than architecture of the joint that leads to these pathologies. In the next decade, we could see an epidemic of hip issues with women who do yoga and stretch. The glamorization of flexibility by the yoga industry as well as the addictive nature of stretching seem to be major factors. In YogAlign,… Read more »

Christine

Thank you for sharing your experience. I’m curious about your understanding of chronic pain and in particular your statement about having pain about living with pain but not knowing your living with pain. I look forward to hearing more.

You may be interested in this blog post from a wonderful resource website dedicated to improving pain literacy. The author of the post shares about his own recovery hip (and two knees) replacement.

https://noijam.com/2016/02/10/two-knees-and-a-hip/

You and your readers may be interested in checking their understanding of the neurophysiology of pain via this questionnaire:

http://www.bodyinmind.org/resources/pain-assessment-resources/neurophysiology-of-pain-questionnaire/

In health.

Claudia

This is so similar to my body story. I spent years pulling myself apart in bikram and power vinyasa classes. I was diagnosed with EHLERS DANLOS hypermobility syndrome in 2012 and have been on my quest to wellness, wholeness and understanding of my body since then with the passion and fervor of the reborn. My pain story is so powerful. Thank you so much for writing this. I have been writing and journaling through this journey. I am a yoga teacher, and have been really concerned by the lack of basic understanding of human anatomy of so many instructors out… Read more »

Karen Costa

Jill, Thank you for your transparency. I know you aren’t the only yoga teacher dealing with this, but you are one of the few talking about it. I also have what my doctor calls “loosely set” or “uncovered” hips. I was living in constant pain after two years of a daily vinyasa practice. I found the work of Michaelle Edwards and attended a retreat at Kripalu. My asana practice is now very gentle with a focus on strength, stability, and agility rather than flexibility. When I hear yoga teachers says that “we all need to open our hips” I run… Read more »

Peter Southall

Thank you for the transparency of your journey. Being a role model for many I am sure, this kind of honesty translates to the best kind of authenticity.

Chadd Schaefer

Dude. You are a rock star of the highest order. Sharing your story with such unflinching honesty will no doubt save many a hip in the coming years. This article is why I am so proud to be a Yoga Tune Up® teacher and why I am so grateful to have been given the opportunity to call you my teacher. Looking forward to part 2. I will spread this article to as many humans as I can.

Christina

How timely! I just scheduled my total hip replacement surgery TODAY for a month away. Just like you, decades of high impact aerobic teaching, yoga, running, and jumping rope barefoot on a concrete floor, coupled with an eating disorder, anxiety, depression, and a family history of arthritis has rendered my right hip useless. I’m tired of masking the pain and powering through like I deserve the punishment. I will miss teaching asana for awhile, but perhaps it is time to focus more on the other 7 limbs of yoga. I look forward to your posts! Christina ERYT age 52

Patricia

Thank you for sharing so honestly, Jill. As a former professional ballet dancer I can relate to the need to overstretch and overdo for the illusion of attaining perfection. As a yoga and YTU instructor now, I feel it is our responsibility to share our stories. Many students have confessed to pushing their bodies to the limit due to peer pressure within the dance industry or self-imposed discipline — and I often ask, “At what cost?” I’ve found that the best way to connect to these students is by sharing my own personal struggles and offering intelligent approaches to gaining… Read more »

Diana

Best luck and rapid healing to you Jill.
You have helped me so much with all your advice….. and tune up balls. I appreciate all you’ve done and all you know, and all I’ve been able to retain as i read your book and practice with dvds. I am impressed by your ability to examine how you’ve contributed to your predicament. So you are still teaching me. With much admiration and appreciation. And hope for your comfort and peace! From connecticut.

Lisa

Jill, Reading your article, it sounds like you have FAI (femoral acetabulum impingement) with labral tear, osteoarthritis and bone spurs! How do I know? My husband had these exact symptoms— and your description is nearly the same as his. He is just now 3 weeks post-op from arthroscopic hip reconstruction surgery. He is 49, always been a top athlete and never had any major injuries. His condition is genetic (most FAI are), and the damage was so severe, that his Orthopaedic surgeon (Dr Byrd) said this type of surgery— not replacement— is the only option to retain integrity and mobility… Read more »

Rachel

I was wondering if there is anything in Yoga Tune Up Fitness that you will change now that things have changed in your practice? I see many teachers who after 15 yrs are changing their tunes and pulling back from what they have always known.
May you heal painlessly and quickly!
Rachel

Jackey

WOW. i did the SAME. DAMN. THING. i ground my hip to literal mush at the age of 23 from living at yoga and dance studios, trying to stifle the immense anxiety I felt, riding the exercise-induced euphoria until it crept up again. My hip finally collapsed under me while walking down stairs to the subway. Two reconstructive hip surgeries. Arthritis and necrosis. Total hip replacement at 27. I used to teach yoga. I stopped immediately after that initial injury. Today, I consider myself “mostly recovered,” and back to nearly everything I love to do, but the metal in my… Read more »

Therese

Thanks so much, Jill. I’ve often questioned my ability to stretch deeper and concerned myself with not being able to go further in my personal practice. But, when teaching I always say listen to your body, take baby steps, enjoy the ride. You are enough. I look forward to Part 2.

Marie beswick

Thank you. I too had a very active lifestyle. Running 30 miles a week, hiit training several times a week, weight lifting and yoga. Did a hike and fell only to discover I had osteoarthritis in my left hip. It winded me to the point of depression hitting me. I wish I knew what I know now. Thank you kindly for you’re article. Very much appreciated.

DAK

Sorry to learn of all the damage and pain but glad to learn you are on the path to healing. I too had a Total Hip Replacement. A Hippy! My lifelong hypermobility was the culprit. Or better put, the unskilled exploration of that hypermobility was the culprit. I have a genetic spectrum disorder called Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. Have you seen a geneticist for an evaluation of this possibility? Worth considering. As others who’ve had THR, the pain will dramatically decrease immediately after surgery. For an inspiring process of diagnosis, treatment, and recovery from THR, check out how legendary waterman Laird… Read more »

Ariel

Oy Vey! Thank you for this Jill. I know that urge to chase sensation, chase extremes, in order to distract myself from the discomforts of my humanness oh so well. Just last week I was feeling slightly inadequate, and so made a new declaration to build more muscle, and immediately pulled my back because I was trying to override my physical sensations out of a mental/emotional urge to suddenly be more. This weeks lesson is to be kind and quiet and rest with big cushions behind my back… I always appreciate your candor, and the fact that you take us… Read more »

Debi Robinson

Hi Jill, I had a total hip 4 months ago at the age of 51. Mine is a result of an adjustment from a yoga teacher which tore my labrum. I first had an arthroscope to repair the torn labrum but it didn’t work, my joint collapsed and I ended up with a total hip. I’m getting stronger and it has been such a journey and learning experience. I am a Yoga Therapist and I think that has helped me heal quickly. I taught 9 classes at 2 weeks post op and my students were shocked. Not crazy power yoga… Read more »

John Carter

Very honest direct account, look forward to part 2. Hope the hip op goes well.

Catherine

Im looking forward to Part 2. Hypermobility is no joke. Wishing you well

Noémie

Thank you for this great article Jill! I love the way you emphasize on the ”be more, do more, have more”. I am confident that so many people can relate to these words. It’s crazy to think for years we have been doing the best and right things for our body, but in fact have been destroying parts of it.
I look foward for what follows! xx

Kim

Hi Jill, Thank you for sharing. It’s interesting to me that when you think your doing all the right things for a healthy body and mind something like your hip deterioration can gradually come on. I know for myself I injured my hip in my 20’s and since then I always work on it’s mobility. Reading your story makes me wonder am I doing the right movements?
I look forward to the follow up post.

Louis Jackson

Jill, you saved me from breaking my back and derailed my own run away train down the tracks of overuse. With you as my muse, I continue to practice the art of kenesthetic cartography: drawing my own unique embody-map to unearth movement treasures of self-care. You’ve taught me to feel so deeply. You’re a bold pioneer and this latest hip trip will only bring more clarity to your pristine waters. Thank you for captaining our ship.

Codie

Hey Jill, Sorry to hear you need the full replacement. I’m 36 and found out 3 years ago I will need a full replacement in the next few years depending how things go. I have bone cysts and swelling. I can’t think of any known injuries. I was a couch potato until my late 20s and have been lifting weights the last 4 years or so. No one can really predict where mine came from. They just chalk it up to bad genetics. Thank you for sharing your story. I hope the full replacement helps your pain! Take care!!

Jason

Thanks for sharing Jill. I’m sure there are many people out there following the same path you took with stretching, stretching, stretching. I feel tight ……. I should stretch more. No!!! Not necessarily.

Hopefully, your story can bring about more awareness. Best of luck with your surgery and recovery.

Charlene

Hope all goes well with the surgery. I have been really impressed with your knowledge and the products/information you provide to those who follow you. Hard to integrate that someone like you feels like ‘not enough’ when you seem like so very much to those of us who follow you.

Alexandra Auder

Jill! Hi! Remember me? My mom, Viva? I have a hip labrum tear and have come to all the same conclusions as you. Somehow I did less damage–I think because I am much lazier than you. But reading your article I almost cried and was nauseated in that when you identify so thoroughly with something. Anyway, I just wanted to say hi and send you love. xo

Leigh Ann Kingsbury

As a daily exerciser I was dismayed at needing a THR.
Best BEST decision I ever made! Back to exercising without pain and getting ready to start yoga and spinning again. Can’t wait
Go for it!

Staffan

Fantastic piece of writing. It should be required reading for health care workers, yoga teachers, yoga students. Heck every human being should read it. Looking forward to reading part two!!!