How To Survive A PAO

By Community Member & Advocate MJ Sharp

I’ve put together some tips from my experiences recovering from my pelvic osteotomies.  I hope fellow hipsters find them useful.

(Note: the abbreviation ‘PAO’ relates to all kinds of pelvic osteotomies including Triple Pelvic Osteotomy (TPO) etc.)

Get clued up
Before your surgery, get clued about what recovery involves.  Ask your surgeon or others who have undergone PAO surgeries.  It’s helpful to read blogs and other’s experiences to have an idea what to expect at certain stages.  Many people find online support groups a useful way of connecting with others and sharing advice for surgery and recovery.

Have a support network
You will need a support network during your recovery, for practical help and general emotional support.  You might find it useful to set up a WhatsApp or Facebook group to post updates or requests to friends and family, or have 1 main person keeping others in the loop.  “Meal train” is another useful website where people can sign up to bring meals round on certain days (www.mealtrain.com).

Find a project
Before your surgery, prepare a project for yourself to get stuck into during recovery.  Get creative with something crafty like card making, enrol on a distance learning course, learn to knit, write a blog.  The first few days and weeks you might find you are too tired to concentrate much, but having some kind of purpose whilst your mobility is still hindered and you aren’t back at work full time will help prevent you from going crazy.

Sleep
You will sink into a parallel universe in which sleep becomes your best friend, particularly the first few days.  Use it: sleep sleep and more sleep, your body is healing and it needs to recover.  Some people also find they go through a bout of fatigue 3 or 4 months post-op.  Duvet days come in very handy at these times.  If you carry on experiencing fatigue after this and you’re worried about it, you might want to check in with your GP.

Keep moving where possible
The first few days, even though your movements will be significantly limited, try not to sit in one position for too long at a time.  Your physio on the ward will show you some simple bed or chair exercises to keep you from getting too stiff.  Just make sure you stick to any precautions you are given by your surgeon.  Some examples are bending and straightening your knees and circling your ankles.

Do your rehab
They say that the surgery part of this is only one half of the equation, the other half is rehab, rehab, rehab.  Yes, it can be dull and difficult, but if you don’t do it you won’t get better, so it is really important that you find what works for you to persevere with it.  Stick up a calendar to mark off everyday; get an app on your phone that tracks your goals; set reminders to do it regularly; get friends and family to keep you accountable.  Celebrate every small achievement e.g. managing 10 repetitions of hip abductions instead of 5, moving up a theraband colour.  These things will boost your determination, and are also helpful to look back on to see how much you’ve improved over the weeks and months.

Don’t stress
On the flip side, if you are, like me, one of these highly driven, motivated, perfectionist, self-critical people, who have a tendency to lie awake at night stressing you haven’t done enough rehab (no joke!); don’t.  Just don’t.  You will get there!  This is the long game remember, there are going to be times when you miss a day or two of physio exercises, you are simply not a machine!  Calm down, have a cuppa and sit and watch some Netflix…

To Pad or not to Pad
I know you might feel like an elderly lady doing this, but buying some Tena ladies pads from your local supermarket will be a Godsend in the first few weeks.  Your bowels and waterworks may well be a bit all over the place to start with.  Your physio can show you some pelvic floor exercises, but to be honest, I personally found that it was all a bit asleep down there in the early days!

Cardiovascular exercise
As well as strengthening your newly recreated hip, it’s important that you start doing some cardiovascular exercise – I don’t mean aerobics or running circuits.  Low impact things like using a static bike when you’re able to will really help to start to improve your exercise tolerance.  If you can get to your local swimming pool then practicing walking in the water will be hugely helpful to get your gait back to normal.  I also found holding onto the side and kicking was a great thing to try.

Have a cry
It’s normal to feel a bit low in the first week or two post-op.  You’ll be recovering from the anaesthetic and you’ll be tired and most-likely trying to manage your pain levels.  It’s also normal to feel emotional at other points in your recovery, so be kind to yourself.  Keep in touch with friends who you can rant or cry to, eat some chocolate, put on a sad movie and have a sob.  I strongly recommend “Testament of Youth,” it worked for me!

When can I…?!
There is no hard and fast rule about when it’s okay to be intimate with your partner, so you may have to play it by ear.  The first few days and weeks you most likely won’t feel up to much.  Versus Arthritis have some useful advice on positioning for people with joint pain here.  You can also read the experiences of a fellow hippie, Xandra Lee, in her book “Sex, with these hips?”  Find it here.

Don’t run before you can walk
I mean this literally and figuratively.

Embrace your new life
There’s no doubt about it; being diagnosed with hip dysplasia and going through PAO surgery is a life changing experience.  At times it may well feel overwhelming, but just consider how much you can learn about yourself during challenges like this.  I have genuinely found I am a more self-disciplined person and I have learnt better problem solving skills through these surgeries.  Try not to be bitter (easier said than done); this experience has the power to strengthen you as a person, if you let it.

Where is ‘there?’
I found it hard for a long time not knowing exactly what full recovery would look like.  It’s important to be aware that this is different for everybody, there are so many different factors that can influence this.  Don’t be surprised if you still have niggles even after a year post-op, the entire biomechanics of your hip and pelvis have changed after living with them for the whole of you life.  Having a balanced understanding of what your prognosis is likely to be will help you enormously.

Hope you found these helpful!

M-J Sharp’s Article on her Blog Page.

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