For as long as I can remember I have felt physically a bit awkward and uncomfortable. As I child I wasn’t very good at sports. I was super-flexible and could bend back into the crab (or yoga wheel), do the splits and other bendy feats, but I’ve never had much strength, nor have I been able to run for any length of time. It always hurt my joints. Growing up, I often felt out of whack, and visited chiropractors and conventional doctors for various joint problems. They usually told me I was double-jointed and one told me that I was so loose now that when I grow old and my peers all have arthritis, I would finally be normal and be able to run marathons. I never bought that theory.
Two years ago, I had a bad pain in my left hip and it was becoming hard for me to walk and do yoga. A friend pointed out to me that hip injuries during yoga are actually common in middle-aged women, so I was very worried I would have to give up yoga. I thought I’d better see a chiropractor about it. I talked to my friend Cheryl, who is a retired chiropractor and can’t treat me any more, and she recommended a colleague, Theresa, who has a practice just around the corner from our house. I had to drive there, because my hip hurt. But it’s LA, and that’s normal here!
Theresa is a wonderfully warm, engaging woman, with large brown eyes that emanate intelligence and care. She spent an hour with me asking me about my physical condition and having me perform a few simple exercises and movements, after which she explained confidently that I have ligamentous laxity syndrome, or LLS. Whaa? I had never heard of this. But when she explained it to me, all the issues with my joints and physical discomforts over the years suddenly made sense. My ligaments are too loose, which means that although I am very flexible, which is useful in yoga class, this is not always a good thing. Our ligaments, the tissues that connect our bones to each other, are supposed to be fairly tight so that they limit the range of motion of our joints, thus creating normal joint stability. I don’t have that stability. This explains not only my looseness, but also the reason why running has always hurt, because my knee, hip and ankle joints were not being adequately supported each time my feet pounded the ground. It also explains why I have to crack my wrists, shoulders and back so much – they feel out of alignment and they often are. On the one hand it was a little scary to know I had a syndrome, but on the other, I was relieved and even excited to finally know what my problem was. Theresa explained to me that I would have to work my muscles harder to support the joints, to take over some of the burden the ligaments were supposed to carry. And in yoga, she explained, instead of dropping 100% into a particular pose (like a forward fold, which is extremely easy for me – I can usually place my palms flat on the floor with knees unbent), it was safer and better for me to go 80% into the pose and then engage my muscles to hold the pose. This would strengthen my muscles and help prevent further injury.
After a few months of work with Theresa, my hip healed, which was a huge relief. What was even more valuable about my visits to Theresa and this diagnosis was that around this time, my son Theo was starting to contort himself into strange positions to try to crack his back and wrists and make many of the odd, awkward movements that I’d made as a child – and still do now. He is very flexible and hates running too. It suddenly became clear to me that Theo has inherited my “syndrome.” I’m not happy about this fact as I know how uncomfortable he must be, but I am glad that I know what it is and what he can do to protect his joints. He has already started seeing Theresa, who is as warm, caring and good at communicating with him as she was with me. In fact, he had been having trouble with his back this week, and today he asked me if he could have an appointment with Theresa, the “chirocracktor,” as he calls her. Fortunately she had a slot free and we went to see her and have her give him an adjustment. I wanted to give her something to thank her for helping me and my boy (and also David, who has seen her for other issues), and ideally something pretty connected to joints somehow. I had a lot of trouble finding something that fit that description, so in the end settled for something pretty – an Indian silver ankle bracelet. Well, the ankle is a joint, so can I have that one?