Impossible Takes Longer
I did the impossible and cured osteoarthritis. The specialists had assured me that this wasn't possible. Perhaps I never had osteoarthritis and the diagnosis was wrong? Either way, my case was described by the specialists as 'classic'. They were certain of the diagnosis and it was confirmed by numerous health professionals over the years. All I can say is that if they were wrong about my case they could have been wrong about yours.I beat an OA diagnosis - perhaps you can too!
9 years after being diagnosed with a 'classic' and incurable case of hip osteoarthritis I am symptom free and enjoying an active life. I will be sharing the full details of my symptoms, the diagnosis and prognosis, the battles and setbacks and the ultimate cure which turned out to be surprisingly simple once the mechanisms of the condition were understood.
Can you be Cured Too?
My symptoms turned out to be entirely due to muscle imbalances. This is likely to be a contributing factor in most cases diagnosed as osteoarthritis. The only way to find out if you can be completely cured is to address the muscle imbalances and see what you're left with. I have developed a model that greatly simplifies that task.
A Self Help Guide
By popular request I'm putting together a self-help guide explaining how to go about identifying muscle imbalances that could mimic, lead to, or even be a consequence of osteoarthritis and how to correct them. The approaches I developed to treat myself are harmless and can only help relieve symptoms and prevent further damage.
Health professionals say osteoarthritis can't be cured - can they really be wrong?
The biggest hurdle I had to overcome during my battle with osteoarthritis was getting to grips with the fact that the specialists insisted I was incurable. Every fibre of my being told me this wasn't true - partly intuition, but also based on logic, common sense and my detailed knowledge of the onset and nature of symptoms. Yet despite extensive searches I was unable to find any reputable source that refuted what the specialists had told me.
I know from talking to others that it's normal to be crippled with fear by the prognosis. Many people - especially those that are relatively young and active - desperately want to fight back, but faced with a condition they don't understand they're afraid to go against professional advice. They have no one else to turn to.
I realize that in order to help people overcome this fear and make informed decisions I have to address the question of "Can the health professionals really be wrong?". (click on the headings below)
- in 2006 I was diagnosed with a classic case of hip osteoarthritis.
- The diagnosis was made by a well respected leading specialist.
- Over the years the diagnosis was confirmed by a variety of health professionals.
- I was assured the symptoms were a direct result of hip joint degeneration.
- I was assured that nothing could be done to reverse the symptoms.
- I was told that if I didn't give up strenuous sporting activities I'd need a hip replacement within a few years.
- In 2012 I was told I had no cartilage, bone on bone restriction and an estimated year before total hip replacement would be required.
9 years after the original diagnosis (10 years after the original onset of symptoms) I am symptom free. I no longer meet the criteria for a diagnosis of osteoarthritis.
I have evidence of the initial diagnosis and evidence of numerous health professionals records of its progression. I can prove that I no longer have osteoarthritis, and now that I know exactly what was wrong I can prove beyond all doubt that certain muscle imbalances will exactly mimic the symptoms commonly diagnosed as osteoarthritis. It is likely that many cases are identical to mine - and therefore completely curable.
It seems that no one has been given the responsibility for monitoring, recording or evaluating cases of Osteoarthritis that have been cured. I've contacted the health professionals that I've dealt with over the years - they show no interest and those that have expressed a view say that there is no mechanism to record cured cases. Arthritis Research UK who boast that they are leading the fight against OA told me that they are only interested in information from recognized universities and institutions and in published, peer reviewed research studies.
The health industry has declared that there is no cure for osteoarthritis. No procedures related to the cure of osteoarthritis are recognized. Consequently, no one recognized by the system will ever report a cure. Those that cure osteoarthritis but aren't recognized by the system are ignored. Bureaucracy at it's finest!
Osteoarthritis is a diagnosis of exclusion. This means it can only be diagnosed when all other possibilities have been ruled out. . Conditions that haven't yet been discovered or formally acknowledged obviously can't be ruled out.
In evidence based medicine anything that hasn't been formally researched and shown to work is unlikely to be disseminated to health professionals. It therefore won't be taken into account when making a diagnosis.
In order for something to be researched funding is required. Surgeons are seen as the experts in the world of osteoarthritis. They have influence and they provide the necessary impetus to ensure that new surgical approaches are researched and trialed. The pharmaceutical industry is hugely profitable. Drug companies have a vested interest in funding research to prove their products effective in treating osteoarthritis symptoms. It's hardly surprising then that evidence based medicine centers primarily around drugs and surgery.
The experts in physical therapy within the health system are physiotherapists. I've been informed by several physiotherapists that they aren't trained to treat complex muscle imbalances. With no expertise in muscle imbalances within the health system who is going to push for the relevant research? Until muscle imbalance as a cause of osteoarthrits-like symptoms is researched it can never be an alternative diagnosis to OA. Until symptomatic muscle imbalance as a consequence of true osteoarthritis is researched and proven to work it will never be offered as a treatment.
Catch 22 - there is no expertise in dealing with complex muscle imbalances within the health care system. Muscle imbalances as a treatable cause, symptom or alternative diagnosis to osteoarthritis isn't even a blip on their horizon. The problem is cyclic - until the expertise exists to recognize it as a possible cause it won't be researched. Until it is researched the expertise to recognize the need for research won't exist.
The bottom line is that when your doctor tells you that you definitely have OA he's not being honest with you. All he can ever really say is that having ruled out all KNOWN causes of your symptoms OA is the only possibility left. They can't help you look into the possibility of it being a muscle imbalance as no one in the health service knows enough about it. It's still uncharted territory. The question is, would you prefer to accept the prognosis that comes with an osteoarthritis diagnosis (pain, disability, treatment with toxic drugs and ultimately surgery) or take matters into your own hands and explore unknown territory using safe and harmless approaches that offer the possibility of a cure and the likelihood of at least improvement of symptoms? If the latter then follow this web site and I'll do all I can to help you.
It's impossible to even guess without extensive research. However, mine was said to be a classic case. If they can get it wrong with me it suggests that they're getting it wrong with very many people.
The human body will adapt to things that you do frequently. It's well known that if you sit at a desk all day you're likely to end up with a 'desk job posture'. If you get an injury and develop a limp for a while this could cause a muscle imbalance that stays with you long after the injury is healed. People that do one sided sports such as golf or martial arts are likely to develop left/right imbalances. Most people have some muscle imbalances and most are completely harmless - at worst negatively affecting sporting performance or causing some minor aches and pains. However, muscle imbalances can lead to more debilitating symptoms.
Muscle imbalances tend to get worse with age - simply because our bad habits have had longer to catch up with us. Therefore, older people are more likely to have symptomatic muscle imbalances.
Over time things can become so unbalanced that your brain 'locks' your body down in order to protect it. Soft tissue is put under strain causing aches and pains. Joints are pulled out of position and can wear abnormally. It's likely that this abnormal wear could lead to degenerative changes and eventually turn into osteoarthritis.
This is all known and widely accepted. However, knowledge of how to treat these imbalances is poor and success rates are low. Generally speaking it's just accepted as a normal part of aging - yet it is not inevitable.
It is known that many people have severe degenerative changes in joints yet no symptoms. A diagnosis of OA is only made if there are symptoms associated with the degenerative changes in the joint.
It will surprise many to learn that x-rays and MRI's are no longer used to support an osteoarthritis diagnosis. Many doctors and physiotherapists are behind the times and are still giving out old information. However the recommendation is that the diagnosis is made clinically. If you are over 45 and have had joint pain for more than three months that is unlikely to be caused by anything else they make a diagnosis of osteoarthritis. This information is freely available on the NHS Web site and in this article advising health professionals on how to diagnose osteoarthritis (on the Arthritis Research UK web site).
The explanation that I've read from the health professionals is that x-rays and MRI's often come back clear or with very mild changes and it makes it difficult then to make an osteoarthritis diagnosis.
From my perspective the big downside to x-rays and MRI's is that benign abnormalities are likely to be assumed to be the cause of symptoms. This could lead to doctors not searching for the real cause of symptoms or even performing unnecessary surgery.
Here we see a big conflict in health professional's best interest and patient's best interest. They want to label us and send us home with a prescription; We want to find the real cause and a cure.
I would think this highly unlikely. Else why do so many people get good results from joint replacement surgery?
Osteoarthritis in major joints like hips, knees, spine and even feet and shoulders WILL cause the body to adapt and compensate. This will ultimately lead to muscle imbalances that will create their own symptoms - including pain and stiffness. In addition, these muscle imbalances and movement impairments could put strain on other joints leading to secondary osteoarthritis
Even if you really do have osteoarthritis it makes sense to treat the muscle imbalances that it causes.
I consulted numerous physiotherapists, chiropractors and osteopaths over the years. Some denied the existence of a muscle imbalance - they were trained to diagnose these symptoms as OA. Others detected it and considered it to be a result of the joint degeneration (in my case the hip), or simply considered it to be irrelevant. Some recognized the imbalance and made bold claims about their abilities to treat it. When they failed most fell back on the osteoarthritis diagnosis rather than admit to inadequacies and weaknesses in their approach. There simply isn't enough knowledge and training about muscle imbalances for health professionals to reliably detect and treat it.
In my experience self help is the only viable approach - at this time.
There simply isn't the knowledge within the health service to solve these problems - if that weren't the case then the policy wouldn't be to tell people OA can't be cured! Outside of the recognized health system here are individuals and groups making incredible breakthroughs in understanding how the human body works and the mechanism and implications of muscle imbalances. It was through studying their approaches that I put all the pieces together and came up with a good model that explained my symptoms and allowed me to reliably predict what muscles needed to be strengthened and stretched. Essentially, the model takes a hugely complex problem and makes it simple and predictable. I believe this model will apply to very many people and will not only explain muscle imbalances producing OA symptoms but also a whole host of aches, pains and muculoskeletal disorders.
I plan to share everything I learned whilst researching my case. As well as describing my actual model, diagnostic criteria and steps to correct in detail I'll provide plenty of resources and background information to help you do your own research. This may be enough to enable you to resolve the problem yourself - I think many people will be able to. Those that can't should be able to take the material to any physiotherapist and enlist their help to work through the steps. I think I can present the information in a way that will not only be easy for the layperson to follow but will also convince the most skeptical of doctors and physiotherapists.
People with a similar pattern of dysfunction to me may well get reliable results by following my steps exactly. I think the information I share should at least help everyone to get on the right track.
At this time the likelihood of an accurate diagnoses is dependent upon your own actions. Hopefully that will change in the near future.
Once again, in my experience the only viable solution is to learn to help yourself. In time I'm sure more expertise will be available, but for the time being your future is in your hands. I think it's worth getting occasional input from a variety of health professionals but you have to be so careful as they really don't have the necessary training. It's so easy to be ripped off, misinformed or persuaded to give up. At the very least you need to educate yourself as much as possible before consulting anyone.
Primarily muscle imbalances are treated through a combination of myofascial release, stretching, strengthening and re-establishing correct movement patterns. In short, corrective exercise or physical therapy. It's all very easy to do yourself - the key to success (and the huge difficulty) lies in making a very accurate diagnosis of the dysfunction and identifying appropriate corrective exercises.
I plan to provide resources, self help guides and precise details with regards to my own diagnosis, treatment and cure. Those with similar conditions to me will get the most help from my resources but there should be plenty in there to help everyone get off to a good start. Pop back regularly or sign up to my newsletter.
Are you wondering if your symptoms are similar to mine? Click here for a full list of my symptoms. You'll be amazed at the damage a seeminly harmless muscle imbalance can cause!
"Whatever the outcome of our chats, you have made such a difference to my outlook. For that alone I am indebted to you."
"I found Susan from her first post, and remember that "Ahh.." moment. She has been hugely helpful, and definitely a light in the wilderness of the medical profession. I am not cured...I have hip OA, but have control over the associated pain that came from overcompensating for the hip."
"Nine months since I first responded to you , Susan, although I read all your posts. This last response of yours was such a clear summary of the basic issue - that doctor's are not gods, and we need to take charge of our own outcomes as much as possible."
"You have hit the nail on the head here. I am sure the medical profession classifies a lot of issues as osteoarthritis and takes the view its incurable. The level of examination appears to me to far too limited and the diagnoses far too simplistic if you get one at all !!!"
"Thanks again so much for your time. i'm so grateful that you are there for us :-) also, please could you let me know if you have a youtube channel or the likes that i can subscribe to if that's ok."
"Susan, your posts are so incredibly informative and tremendously enlightening. I have been diagnosed with knee osteoarthritis and pressured by some physicians into surgery, although one suggested riding it out. I have been acutely proactive and trying various ways and means to work with my injury. Your post resonates so acutely with me as I KNOW now after re-reading your research that my issue is related to soft tissue damage surrounding an injury to my knee exacerbated by a running injury."
"Firstly thanks a lot for sharing such great details of your research.It really has given me hope & a new perspective towards the situation."
"Susan: Thank you for the quick reply and I am astonished and tears are in my eyes that someone finally has a good idea of why I have this pain. I will get the book called Trigger Point Therapy and have just massaged the muscle and it feels better already. It's been a long, long time and I thank God I found you.Thank you again for being so diligent."
"I am definitely going for the soft tissue issue and will do a lot of research on this. I do feel the doctors did not have enough information to give me this diagnosis."
"Thank you for this post, Susan! I have recently been diagnosed with OA and I just felt odd about the doc's attitude. Your post is the first thing that popped up when I searched for answers. The information you have shared is great!"
"It is good to feel empowered, to be able to relieve the symptoms oneself. I cannot thank you enough, Susan. To be able to walk normally makes me feel euphoric!"
"I have been wondering if my own muscle imbalance is due to 30 years in my dental practice, twisting to the left, either seated by the patient or standing up. My right leg is shorter than my left."
"It's very motivating to feel someone else has experienced this sort of problem and overcome it against all medical advice"
"You tell an interesting even inspiring story. It would be very helpful to all if you would tell us about your process. What type of professional help if any? How did you work out which exercises and for which muscle, and how to know that the hip was healing. As much information as possible will allow others to at least begin to check themselves out. It would be a pity to tell your story and stop there."
"I just couldn't find better words to express my gratitude, and just by following your suggestions on which muscles to strengthen, I'm back to normal, no pain at all"
"I do believe a website would make a great difference to all those out there who haven't found you yet. Countless Google searches on my part, over the best part of twelve months have never spotted your comments until now, so heavily surrounded and deeply hidden among doom and gloom sites recommending surgery and claiming OA is not repairable. So if ever you find the time I would urge you to set one up but if not, let's just be grateful you find time to reply to these posts."
"I just want to thank you from the bottom of my heart, Susan, for all the time you've given in helping people. You are a Godsend!"
"I too am 42, fit, active and just ebeen diagnosed with hip and back OA. I am looking for answers as well. I won't take this laying down and would love any info you have on muscle imbalance. Thanks for your uplifting post susan!"
"to back up your theory.I am an optometrist for 20 years .in the same slightly twisted posn all day..think its my root problem. Also looking forward to the detailed step guide to addressing it"
"I am amazed and frankly stunned that no-one of the so called 'health experts' I have visited has ever mentioned it [trigger point self treatment] to me and I had to discover it through the dedicated efforts of someone like you online - I only stumbled across the forum and your posting by accident and if I hadn't I never would have known about this book"
I have plenty more feedback like this.
The diagnostic criteria for OA is not quite what we imagine it to be. Regardless of whether your diagnosis was made by a physiotherapist, a doctor or a leading specialist the procedure is the same. In the UK if you're over 45 years old and have pain and stiffness in the joints with no other obvious cause this is enough to make a diagnosis - x-ray evidence of degenerative changes isn't needed. Even when x-ray evidence is available this could be co-incidental, asymptomatic and entirely unrelated so it's now known that it proves nothing. If you suspect that muscle imbalances are the cause of your symptoms you shouldn't let x-ray findings deter you from pursuing that avenue.
I think it's worth taking a look at this article from the Arthritis Research UK page. It provides guidance to health professionals on how to make a diagnosis of osteoarthritis. If you were diagnosed more than a few years ago then you will see that how they think about osteoarthritis now is perhaps very different from what you were led to believe. It's possible that even if you were diagnosed quite recently your doctor was behind the times and providing outdated information. To my mind the thinking in this article does everything to support the idea of curable muscle imbalances being the root cause - short of actually mentioning anything to do with muscles, physical therapy and corrective exercise! If you're in the UK why not take this article to your GP and ask him if he thinks muscle imbalances could be the root cause of your symptoms. It would be interesting to hear what they had to say.
My intention isn't to create false hope nor to criticize the health professionals who are dealing with a difficult problem. I'm sure many, many cases can't be cured and doctors make the best decision they can with limited resources and limited information. I'm quite sure it's true that with most patients a good outcome wouldn't be possible with physical therapy because they wouldn't want to put in the necessary work. But those that want to fight the condition should be aware that a complete cure or drastic improvement is entirely possible - but it won't be handed to you on a plate. If the pro-active minority were supported in their quest to find a cure (or even not browbeaten into giving up!) more knowledge would be gained and things would ultimately be well enough understood to roll out simple treatments that would benefit all.
No one should give up hope of a complete cure on the basis of an osteoarthritis diagnosis.
Self Help Guide
Learn to manage pain and identify and treat the muscle imbalances that could be the real cause of your symptoms
I'm currently in the process of putting all of my research, knowledge and experiences into a self-help guide. Join my mailing list if you'd like me to let you know when it's available.
The guide will be ready in approximately 1 - 2 months, but in the meantime I'll be sharing as much help info as I can in a blog which I'll be adding to the site very shortly.
Even if a cure isn't possible for you resolving muscle imbalances can only help with symptoms