Yoga and the hip - potential for problems

Josephine

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New York Times by WILLIAM J. BROAD November 2, 2013

FROM my own practice and research, I know that yoga is generally a good thing. The bending, stretching and deep breathing can renew, calm, heal, strengthen, lift moods, lower the risk of heart disease, increase flexibility and balance, counter aging and improve sex. In short, the benefits are many and commonplace while the serious dangers tend to be few and comparatively rare. Even so, last year, after my book on yoga came out, letters from injured guys prompted me to see if the practice, despite its benefits, was hurting one sex more than another. To my surprise, reports from hospital emergency rooms showed that, proportionally, men got injured more often than women and suffered damage that was far worse, including fractures, dislocations and shattered backs.

It made sense. Women are well known to be more flexible than men. Macho guys, yoga teachers told me, too often used their muscles to force themselves into challenging poses and got hurt. The overall numbers were relatively small but large enough to argue that men who did yoga should exercise caution.

Earlier this year, the picture of female superiority began to blur when a prominent yoga teacher in Hawaii wrote me about a poorly known threat to women. The teacher, Michaelle Edwards, said that women’s elasticity became a liability when extreme bends resulted in serious wear and tear on their hips. Over time, she said, the chronic stress could develop into agonizing pain and, in some cases, the need for urgent hip repairs. Her warning contradicted many books, articles and videos that hailed yoga’s bending and stretching as a smart way to fight arthritic degeneration.

To my astonishment, some of the nation’s top surgeons declared the trouble to be real — so real that hundreds of women who did yoga were showing up in their offices with unbearable pain and undergoing costly operations to mend or even replace their hips.

Dr. Hyman said his typical yoga patient was a middle-aged woman, adding that he saw up to 10 a month — or roughly 100 a year. “People need to be aware,” he said. “If they’re doing things like yoga and have pain in the hips, they shouldn’t blow it off.”

Women’s hips showed particular vulnerability. By nature, their pelvic regions support an unusually wide range of joint play that can increase not only their proficiency in yoga but, it turned out, their health risks. The investigators found that extreme leg motions could cause the hip bones to repeatedly strike each other, leading over time to damaged cartilage, inflammation, pain and crippling arthritis. They called it Femoroacetabular Impingement — or F.A.I., in medical shorthand. The name spoke to a recurrence in which the neck of the thigh bone (the femur) swung so close to the hip socket (the acetabulum) that it repeatedly struck the socket’s protruding rim.
(BoneSmart Library article Femoro-acetabular (FIA) or cam impingement)

Michael J. Taunton, an orthopedic surgeon at the Mayo Clinic, told me that he first learned of the danger a half decade ago and now annually performs 10 to 15 hip replacements on people who do yoga. About 90 percent, he added, are women.

Unfortunately, yoga teachers too often encourage students to “push through the pain.” That’s not smart. Pain is nature’s warning system. It’s telling you that something has gone awry. Better to do yoga in moderation and listen carefully to your body. That temple, after all, is your best teacher.


(Josephine: now where have I heard that before?!! :heehee:)
 

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