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Dennis has a bad joke that starts out, “It all began about a weak back …” I guess my version of that would be, “It all began about a weak hip.”

Bad joints seem to run in the Bowman family. My dad and two of his three siblings had joint replacement surgeries. In my dad’s case, it was a hip replacement. It wasn’t really a surprise given all of the heavy lifting he’d done through his lifetime of farming. I especially remember his offloading wagons of ear corn using a shovel. A bad hip was almost considered a farmer’s occupational hazard.

While I was in college, Dad had an accident while loading hay for a buyer. He fell and broke his leg, which led to a lengthy recuperation. It was that leg which eventually developed the bad hip, from arthritis setting in. The surgeon mentioned he’d adjusted Dad’s new hip to correct that leg being shorter than the other.

Those memories were in the distant past for me until about four years ago, when I retired from my “day job.” I promptly overused my left hip by pivoting on it repeatedly as I undertook my first retirement goal — removing an over-accumulation of manure from the sheep pen. My hip started hurting, but I didn’t let that stop me; I had a job to do and I was determined to check it off my “to do” list.

That same summer, while attending my twice-weekly step aerobics class, something odd happened. As I extended my left leg in a cool-down stretch, I both heard and felt something “pop” in my left hip. It caused pain, but I didn’t let that stop me either. I figured my hip would bounce back in the coming days. It didn’t.

I was eager to make our annual trek to Ag Progress Days a few weeks later; however, it soon became obvious that even walking from the car to the exhibit area was not going to work. That realization finally caused me to call my doctor.

The doctor prescribed applying ice and temporarily taking large doses of ibuprofen. That combination helped my hip somewhat, but eventually, my hip and I were referred to an orthopedist. He recommended what I’d been dreading — an injection of cortisone into my ailing hip joint. Fortunately, I didn’t have long to worry about it; he gave me the shot on the spot. It really wasn’t painful and, best of all, my hip responded well to this treatment.

In recent years, my hip has had its ups and downs, usually associated with either overuse or changes in the weather. My doctor wisely suggested using arthritis strength acetaminophen for these occasional aches and pains, which proved to be a major help with my periodic hip twinges.

Then one day about two years ago, I noticed something odd. I picked up a great pair of jeans at a nice thrift shop for just $3. I loved them in the dressing room, but when I tried them on at home, I was disappointed to notice the one pants leg was longer than the other.

“No wonder they were so cheap,” I thought.

Over the next year or so I noticed that when I wore slacks, the one leg always looked shorter than the other. I’m embarrassed by how long it took me to connect the dots on this problem — it wasn’t the pants legs that were uneven, it was my legs.

Trying Something New

Recently, Dennis was having trouble with sciatica and, on the advice of a friend, he went to see an osteopath, a medical doctor who also uses “manipulations” to correct problems with bones and joints. The osteopath showed us how much shorter Dennis’ one leg was than the other. He then made adjustments to correct this scenario and alleviated Dennis’ sciatic pain.

This gave me an idea. Could a similar adjustment work for my hips? I was given an appointment and approached it with some trepidation. Not surprisingly, my one leg was indeed found to be shorter than the other, which contributed to my hip pain. What was surprising was the remedy.

I was relieved to find that the adjustment takes place while the patient is fully clothed and lying on a comfortable procedure table. While laying on my stomach, I was gently rolled from side to side by the doctor; it was actually quite relaxing. He then pressed lightly on my upper spine. I’d heard this kind of doctors called “back crackers,” but to my relief, I heard no such sound effects.

My appointment ended with laying first on one side and then on the other with the top leg extended, as the doctor pressed down on my hips. There was no cracking nor pain involved. When I stood up, I saw my pants legs were perfectly aligned and I walked with a newfound sense of stability.

Recently, our hyperactive Hereford calf, Reddy, gave my bad hip a pounding on several occasions, causing renewed pain and uneven pants legs. I paid a return visit to the osteopath, who literally “set me straight” once again and gave me some simple exercises to do moving forward.

It’s always good to know you’ve made an adjustment in the right direction.

Sue Bowman is a freelance writer in southeastern Pennsylvania.

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