Monday, May 16, 2016

FAI and Labral Tear: How I'm Coping With My Hip Injury

In a few days, I’ll be undergoing arthroscopic surgery on my hip to repair a torn labrum and reshape the head of my femur.

More than six months ago while in a power yoga class as the teacher was leading the class through a series of balance-challenging flow sequences, she gave the direction to transition from half-moon to revolved half moon stating, “In the car on the way over here, I thought we should try this tonight.” [If you ever hear a teacher say this, DON'T GO ALONG!!! It's important that a teacher KNOWS what something will feel like in their own body before asking you to try it with YOURS! (FYI as I have learned since then: NEVER do this set of poses consecutively!)]

On auto-pilot after mentally checking out (big mistake), I went through the sequence on my right side. While it didn’t feel “great,” I chalked up the sensation in my hip as nothing more than fatigue and aging. On the second side, transitioning between the poses caused a feeling I can only describe as “meat separating from bone.” It was excruciating. I assumed it was a pulled muscle as I “recovered” on my mat for the remainder of class, pulling myself together enough to teach a one-hour class immediately following my “mishap.”

This is what it kind of felt like when I did that sequence

The next weekend I visited friends in another part of the country, logging close to 30-miles on foot as we speed-walked through points of interest in their new city, strolled along area beaches, and enjoyed the beauty of the great outdoors. Not one to want to be THE wet-blanket, I ignored the searing pain that radiated throughout my left hip all weekend. My only respite came when my husband gracefully suggested I might want to practice yoga back at the house alone while everyone else hit the roads for a 30-mile bike trip early one morning. I owe him big-time for that…

By the time we got to the airport for our trip home, I was unable to swing my left leg in front of me as we trekked to our gate. Instead, I had to pivot my left leg in a way that resembled a cowboy from the Wild West, striding ‘round town after a months-long excursion on the back of a very wide horse. Getting in and out of a car was only manageable if I sat on the seat, both legs outside the door and then picked my leg up to lift it into the car.

A few days after returning home, I heard and felt a loud pop in my hip and, although still in pain, I regained some mobility in it.

Sleepless nights have ensued, aided only by an extra-firm king-sized pillow placed between my legs, positioned from my feet up to the top of my inner thighs which allows me to doze between periods of wakefulness as I shift and turn to accommodate the pillow and the pain in my “bad” hip.

Throughout it all, I kept thinking there was a pulled muscle that simply needed to recover, or some muscles that needed to be strengthened/stretched/ignored(?), indulging in longs soaks in Epsom salts and frequently using a roller on the outside of my left leg… I continued to teach and practice (in fact, there was only one day each week I wasn’t teaching), albeit somewhat modified, otherwise during classes one wrong move could make me wince, gasp, and limp afterward.

These warning signs should have been plenty to warrant further investigation into what was actually going on, but because I was born with bent tibia and lived with constant leg pain throughout my childhood and into my adult years, pain in my legs was my “normal.” Ignoring it was how I coped. Couple that with being “THE mom,” whereas I simply don’t have time to be out of commission, and being in denial can make for a great coping strategy.

The first of the year brought a renewed sense of focus on trying to “fix” my hip, so I upped my physical activity directed at strengthening my quads and my adductors, and made sure to get 10,000 steps in every day whether it was on the track at the Y or on the hilly roads near my home – and I got worse, much worse. The tipping point arrived with a very loud single POP in my hip, followed by a sound I can only compare to wearing one flip flop every time I took a step with my left foot. Others in the same room could hear me walking by. My daughters would (jokingly) ask me to stop walking near them because the sound weirded them out… It lasted for weeks.

Finally, I sought professional help. A highly recommended PT suggested I could have a labral tear (which I first heard as a “LABIAL tear,” confusing me to the point that I ALMOST said, “No, the pain is in my HIP!” until I realized she was pointing to her own hip as she said it, and then it was all I could do to not laugh for the remainder of our appointment…), and recommended I get an appointment with my general practitioner who would most likely order and x-ray and go from there.

To cut to the chase, I saw my doctor who referred me to a hip specialist after review of my x-ray revealed some missing cartilage. The specialist I went with is supposedly one of the best around. Further X-rays and MRI have revealed not just the labral tear, but also the presence of FAI (Femoroacetabular Impingement) – an abnormal shape of the “ball” part of my ball-and-socket in my hip (mine is more of an oval than a round ball) making me more susceptible to injuries such as mine – which they say has most likely been present since birth. It explains the nagging, always-present IT band pain I’ve contended with in the same leg since upping my yoga practice when I was going through my teacher training.

Surgery to repair both the tear and the impinging bone will be done arthroscopically on Thursday. I’m a big baby when it comes to needles and surgeries and blood and pain, but I am so over being in pain from this hip issue that I’m willing to endure whatever it takes to attempt to fix it. From what they’ve told me, part of the “enduring” will include one to two months on crutches with NO weight on my left leg. The total recovery time is usually four to six months. Within a year, I can expect to return to normal activity. Had it simply been the labral tear, I’d be out of commission for about 30 days.

If you’re reading this and you are tempted to advise me to try non-surgical treatments first, don’t. Rubbing oils on my hip or eating certain foods won’t reshape my hipbone or mend the torn cartilage of the gasket in my hip. Altering my physical activity in order to live with this condition isn’t an option, either, as it would eliminate hiking, yoga (my job), going up and down stairs, or even bending over to tie my shoes from my regular routine. Yes, I’m aware of the risks of surgery (and I’ve been thinking about them ad nauseum – mostly in the wee hours of the morning), but the risks associated with an inactive life, and one in constant pain ARE realities for me right now. I’m confident I am in good hands. People come to my doctor from all around the world for treatment. His office is adorned with the jerseys of pro football and hockey players he has operated on, and who later returned to their profession.

I’m looking forward to getting my life back, but I’m still a little scared about the journey it’ll take to get there.

Elly Haddad is a Healthy Life-Style Coordinator, combining her certifications as an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and yoga instructor. She's the owner of Elemental Fit and founder of The NashWell Group, both based in Nashville, TN. When she isn't sidelined by this injury, she teaches at Hot Yoga Plus, Sanctuary for Yoga, The YMCA of Middle TN, and various private corporate clients and individuals. She helps individuals and groups understand the important influence that diet & lifestyle have on health, happiness, and overall wellbeing. Elly is also a freelance writer and public speaker, conducting workshops and seminars throughout the midwest and southeastern US. She can be contacted directly via email here

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