Originally published on Hubpages.
Five years ago last fall, I suddenly started having debilitating rheumatoid arthritic pain in my right hip. Just walking around in my condo was quite painful.
I usually get side-effects from most medications. I even get side-effects from the side-effects! I chose to try do-it-yourself approaches, and to save the pill-popping as a last resort.
Conventional wisdom has it that aerobic exercise and aerobic fitness can be helpful for people with arthritis. My problem then: Swimming, bicycling, and brisk walking put too much stress on my damaged hip joint. And I couldn’t even think about running!
Instead, I ordered a Trikke. It’s a three-wheeler, with handlebars and hand brakes. But the Trikke has foot platforms above the eight-inch rear wheels, rather than a bike seat.
To make it go forward, shift your weight from foot to foot, while twisting the handlebars in the direction of the weight shift. Even after watching the video, it took about a month for me to get reasonably proficient at it. But that was not a big deal. Even with poor form, I was still getting a good workout. Finally, I gave myself permission to get a little wild. And that was just the ticket.
Now I can zoom along on level stretches, and even Trikke up very gentle hills, albeit with considerable effort. However, I’ll never be as skilled at Trikking up hills as the guy in the video. The great thing about the Trikke is that I can get a real aerobic workout, with negligible stress on my hip.
Five years later, my total routine is quite helpful for the health of my hip. This includes dietary tweaking, together with upper leg strength training. And walking when I feel the need for a psychological boost. That’s an option now that the hip pain has subsided considerably.
A few caveats. Be emotionally prepared for strange looks when you’re Trikking around the neighborhood.
In addition to an arthritic hip, I have lower back issues. There are times when I feel at risk of throwing out my back if I’m not careful. If you’re like me in that respect, listen to your body. You may prefer to Trikke in the afternoons, after your lower back muscles have loosened up a bit, rather than in the morning.
I do NOT recommend the Trikke for people who have a marginal sense of balance. Can you stand on one foot for 30 seconds?
Remember: always wear a helmet, and do NOT go out Trikking when the sidewalk (or bicycle path) is still wet after a rain. Doing that will greatly increase your risk of taking a nasty spill.
I fell over backwards once, because I wasn’t paying enough attention to the sidewalk conditions. I’m so glad that I was wearing my bicycle helmet!
One more exercise:
One fine day, I intuited that a specific strength-training exercise would be also helpful for my hip joint, and it was. It involves the serratus anterior muscles, which you use when you shrug your shoulders forward. For whatever it’s worth, here’s how to do F-shrugs.
Facing a brick wall, place the palms of your hands on the wall, with your arms straight out in front of you. Then move your feet as far back as possible. If someone were to watch me doing that exercise, it would look like I was beginning a wimps’ push-up against the wall. However my arms stay straight out in front of me, with my elbows slightly bent. Since I do all of the work with the serratus anterior muscles in the shoulders, my torso moves only a few inches during the exercise.
Yes, I know that this sounds a little crazy, especially for a science buff like myself. What does a shoulder exercise have to do with hip joints? But there are many good ideas that sound a little crazy at first blush.
I’m mentioning F-shrugs for the sake of completeness, and because it may be helpful for someone else. However I have not seen any research on this particular exercise. It’s possible that I’m the only person in the world whose arthritic hip has benefited from F-shrugs.
In contrast to my individual experience with F-shrugs, aerobic exercise as a DIY physical therapy for arthritis is on a sound scientific footing. Aerobic exercise naturally releases your body’s endorphins, which can decrease pain markedly. (Medications like Demerol are effective, because they affect your endorphin receptors in a similar way.)
I’m not saying that exercising with a Trikke is a silver bullet for everyone who has arthritic hips. I am saying that Trikking gives an excellent aerobic workout, with a minimal amount of stress on the hip joints. For people with an arthritic hip, I recommend investigating the Trikke, which was originally designed for fun fitness.
Some arthritis sufferers can also benefit from an elimination diet. BlossomSB has written an inspiring hub about her experience.
At the moment, I don’t need to use the Trikke for DIY physical therapy. But it’s comforting to know that it’s patiently waiting for me in the garage, if and when it’s needed again.
Larry Fields is a science buff, who’s interested in evidence-based environmental policy, health and fitness, animals, prehistoric art and offbeat humor. He has an M.S. in Analytical Chemistry from Oregon State University, and lives in Northern California.
For more of his writings, visit Larry’s hub at Hubpages, where this article was originally published.