Ahh yes, my dear sweet hoopers we all know how hot and sweaty we get during our hoop practice. Hearts are pounding, sweat is dripping, WE ARE athletes of the Hula-Hoop. Getting caught up in the music, losing ourselves and feeling the beat. We are not really thinking about the stresses we are placing on our bodies... this is why I am so dedicated to teaching proper hooping technique to the Hoop Community! We are not aware of the potential injuries awaiting us from our vigorous practice.
January 2008 was a major wake-up call. My hip pain hit me like a bag of bricks... throbbing, stinging, jabbing, grinding pain in my right hip joint. I hadn't felt anything like this before. I knew I had to do something FAST! I was unemployed and uninsured and felt like my options were limited. I started seeing a chiropractor friend which slightly helped the pain. After having x-rays taken, I learned I have several posture issues in my upper and lower body. I tried Yoga, exercise and lots of stretching but I was in so much pain nothing was tolerable. Nothing helped the pain. Over the next year, I tried various massage therapists and chiropractors, but no one could tell me exactly what was wrong or why I was in so much pain. I felt helpless and depressed. At this point, I had to severely limit my hooping, no longer able to hoop for pleasure, I could only manage to hoop for classes or performances. My heart was breaking. I had to sit and watch my friends hoop while, my hoops leaned against the wall collecting dust.
Naturally, I was deconditioned after more than a year of minimal physical activity. But, I knew if I gained strength my posture would improve and my pain would ease. Luckily, I was hired as a personal trainer at Bally Total Fitness in early 2009 which meant I had full access to the gym. I began exercising six days a week, targeting my glutes and upper back muscles, and worked on my flexibility. To make things worse, I developed tendinitis in my knees in March 2009, which was really painful. I was conscious of the fact that I was training my lower body really hard, but I didn't consider how exercising with static malalignments (poor posture) would affect my body. My pelvis was out of alignment, one leg was longer than the other, my shoulders were rounded, head forward... these issues severely affected my body's performance while exercising, even though I wasn't fully aware at the time. This was my first major realization. My second realization came in April while I was at FLOW-The Northwest Hoop Gathering in Bend, OR. It was my birthday and I had been looking forward to this weekend for months, but I couldn't even enjoy the workshops to their fullest extent due to my pain. This is where I first heard the phrase "Hooper's Hip," which really struck a chord with me. For my first two years hooping, I only spun in ONE DIRECTION for two full years which caused my entire right side to be seriously overtrained. I realized this was the cause of all my pain!
In May 2009, some co-workers recommended a physical therapist who had worked wonders for them, named Tony Rocklin. I had a really good feeling when I met with him and hoped I had finally found the right healer for me! I brought my hoop to my first visit so I could show him how hard we work inside our hoops and explain my thoughts on my problems. After he examined me and performed some assessments, he looked at me and says, "Oh, you are an easy fix!" My heart SKIPPED a BEAT! Really? Really!? Could this be true? I worked closely with Tony over the next few months, visiting his office twice a week. He used several innovative techniques which relieved the pressure in my hip joint and taught me many basic exercises to strengthen my glutes and core. My pain was reducing, my hip was healing, and I was getting stronger! Summer 2009 was not totally pain-free, but I was feeling a lot better and could hoop much more often, even though sometimes it would still haunt me for days afterward.
This brings us to the present, Winter 2010, my hip pain is barely present and I am in the best shape of my life. I've been using a foam roller twice a day for over six months and I strongly suggest every hooper incorporates this into their flexibility routines as well. I will post more details about the foam roller and other strategies very soon!
Overcoming my injuries was a long and painful struggle and illuminated my desire to educate hoopers about the effects of their practice on their bodies and how they can PROTECT themselves against overuse injuries.
WE ARE ATHLETES OF THE HOOP!