Hello, My name is Natalie and I am 27 years old. Approximately two years ago I was diagnosed with Bilateral Hip Displaysia and Femoroacetabular Impingement.

I was probably born with it and was checked apparently, but x-rays were never done. Growing up I was always tiny, I was rubbish at running and couldn’t get both of my legs to do breaststroke swimming, and I always thought that I was just useless at it! You would think a PE teacher might have mentioned something, they should really look into training them to look out for signs of problems like this. Anyway as it usually is if I wasn’t an active person I might never have noticed that I had a problem, or so I’m told, however I have always ridden horses and in university took things to a whole new level working on professional yards. At this point in my life I was riding probably 8-12 hours a week, on my feet from 8am to 8pm and hiking as part of my degree up to 20 miles a day on field work trips. I was really fit and loved it. Then everything changed overnight, im not sure what caused it exactly but I think it was a particularly naughty horse, I initially put the pain down to a groin injury that I treated with a private physio immediately. It just never got better, when I left Uni I had to leave the physio that was treating me and I just got on with life as best I could.

As time passed, things slowly just got worse, I took up Pilates saw chiropractors, physios … nothing really helped and I remember thinking that maybe I was being lazy or that I was just wasn’t as fit as I was. If I mentioned it at the GP’s it was easily brushed off as “you’re a horse rider”. The stupid thing was that if I had kicked up a stink at the start I wouldn’t have had to go through this for 6 years. I should have stood up for myself more and I kick myself for letting it happen. That being said it took an epic tantrum down the phone to the GP to get an simple X-ray, which showed the hip displaysia, I don’t think they would have believed me if I hadn’t had that come up. I would have been fobbed off again, even with the x-rays they tried to fob me off! It took an MRI scan to actually find out the cause of the pain, torn cartilage. Thankfully I live near to one of the best orthopaedic hospitals in the country, and they have so far been excellent.

Looking back I don’t think anyone including myself truly realised how bad things had gotten towards the end. I remember being constantly exhausted, sleepwalking through the day, the pain was such I don’t think I actually felt it anymore, I think my body switched it off or i was just too used to it. I would take a painkiller and not actually notice any difference. It was the sort of pain that crept up on you slowly until it was all encompassing and you can’t actually remember what life was like without it. The side effects of the pain were bad, I have always been skinny doctors have regularly told me that I need to put on weight and I have regularly been treated like I had an eating disorder. The stupid thing was I liked food! I would go through phases of not feeling hungry and phases of constantly feeling starving, nether the less I would eat three big meals a day and snack constantly but would not put an ounce of weight on (not that anyone other than my mother believed me). As it got worse my weight dropped even more and I started having problems with my skin and hair. By this point I knew what was wrong with me, it was just a case of getting through the next few months and hoping that the operations would help things.

I had my first hip arthroscopy with labral repair in October 2017 on my right hip and my second in February 2018 on my left. I went from sleeping 12 hours a day and still feeling tired to sleeping 7 hours and waking up bouncing off of the walls literally overnight. It was incredible and I have to say I found it very hard to sit still.

One thing I have noticed throughout all of this is that I am not very patient and if I could go back I would change things, I would have had my operation asap and not waited six months for October (I didn’t want to miss the summer riding). I would have stopped riding competitively the year before and riding all together when I was exhausted with just normal life. I would have not pushed myself so hard after the first op. I just felt so much better immediately and I desperately wanted my life back. It’s been a hard slog, even my mother has said that she hadn’t realized how bad I was, and it’s only now that I’m fit and active that it became obvious how sick I was this time last year.

Now three months on from my second operation I feel like I’m starting to get me life back, I’ve put on over 4kg, I have so much energy I don’t know what to do with it and I feel healthier than I have in years. I am not pain free however. My left hip is excellent and doesn’t cause me any real problems other than a bit of weakness, which I am still working on. My right hip which was done first is still painful and I hate to admit it but actually feels like it is getting worse. Don’t get me wrong, its better 80% of the pain I was in has gone. At my 6 month check they announced that if I am still in pain there are further procedures that they could do, terrifying procedures!! PAO (Periacetabular Osteotomy) google it and you will see, terrifying! Six months of recovery!! Who knows how long until I would be back on a horse. It’s safe to say I don’t want it, but as I’m sat here with my right hip throbbing slightly I’m also scared that I will go back to how I was! We came to an agreement to talk about it at my left hip six month check in July.

For now I’m just enjoying the sunshine and learning how to ride again. My position is completely different and I don’t want to fall back into old habits so I’ve been taking it slowly. The weirdest thing I have noticed is that my left thigh has become a bit hypersensitive since the operation, I am just rubbing it and hoping that it will sort itself out, though it’s a small price to pay for my life back.

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  1. ramona says:

    Thanks for sharing! I’ve been beating myself up too. Why do we do that to ourselves? I’m looking at full bilateral replacement – I hope it will work. I also want my life back!

  2. Natalie White says:

    That does not sound fun! Two operations in such quick succession is not easy but definitely worth it.
    I’m definitely getting worse in my right hip, I’m getting tired again and my hair is suffering again. I’m slightly annoyed as my appointment with the hospital keeps getting cancelled and moved. I really need to discuss with them the next steps. I hoped to get a couple of years but I don’t think that’s going to happen.

  3. Maya Johnson says:

    Hi Natalie! Your story sounds unfortunately close to mine! I just had my first hip arthroscopy done on my right hip December 2017. Same thing as you, six months post-op, I still have some slight pain in my right hip (mostly the front, and in my lower back), but it usually comes and goes and has never been as bad as it was pre-op.

    Four months post-op I started having symptoms in my left hip. After six weeks of PT, we put in the order for an MRI that reported another torn labrum on the left side and the same impingement that was found on the right. I am wondering if you are finding it worth-while to have had both arthroscopies done, or if you wish you had done PAO surgery for the dysplasia? My doctor reported that I have “borderline” dysplasia, which I’m not sure what that exactly means for the long-term health of my hip. My options are arthroscopy, cortisone injections, or nothing. The PAO surgery looks terrifying and my surgeon didn’t seem to recommend it. Just wondering if you have any advice on your surgeries or how you are feeling with activity post-op on your second hip.

    Anything is helpful!


  4. Natalie says:

    Hi Maya,

    I knew I had done both hips before I started, so I think I had a little bit of an advantage and got them done as close together as possible. The second operation was even better than the first, partly because it wasn’t as bad a tear but mostly because I knew the drill, could crack on with my physio straight away and was feeling better due to the first op. If you only have slight hip dysplasia PAO is just not worth it, it is a huge operation and in my case would have meant not getting back to normal for years! So I have no regrets not having it done and in the end my doctor decided that it was not necessary, he thinks that the pain I’m experiencing is from some residual inflammation. My scars should be white by now but both op scars are still red (which is apparently very rare in someone my age). Once everything settles the pain should get better if not go away completely, I have to say I’m starting to see an improvement since I started on a vitamin D (healing) supplement and turmeric (inflammation).

    I am happy to cope as I am for now, ask me again in a few years, as long as I stay fit and strong I should be fine, I need to keep the hypermobility under control more than anything. I don’t have arthritis yet so until I do I’m not going to worry about it, I will be happy if I can get another 15 years before I need a hip replacement. I am and always will be incredibly active, I have to be strong to ride to the level I want and I will get there. I’ve noticed that I only seem to have problems on my very big horse now, so I was thinking of getting something smaller to get fitter with. Though dismounting is still interesting on all my horses, no matter how tall.

    I have to keep reminding myself that it takes time and hard work; and you need to do the same. I have gone up two dress sizes in muscle alone, in the last 12 months! I would say if your happy with the first arthroscopy, do the second, the impingement isn’t going to fix itself and will just make the tear bigger. As for lower back pain, I can recommend Pilates, that really helped me before my operations with my lower back pain. And whatever you do don’t stop your physio, keep going to the gym, the stronger the better, you need muscle to hold everything in the correct place and above all else remember to stretch out the hip flexors as much as you can bear.

    Let me know how it goes.

  5. Natalie White says:


    Still getting pain in my right hip, with nerve pain radiating down the leg and my exercises are getting to my knees. Basically when I get off my horse I’m hobbling for about 10 min. They are confident that it is not cartilage damage again but just bad positioning of the hip joint, so I am being referred to a PAO specialist. Personally I would rather not have PAO if I can avoid it, I have to wonder if some sort of steroid or pain relief would help build up the muscle and support the hip better to get away with a few more years.
    In other news I had a little riding accident on the 1st January and my ankle is still painful so I’m off for x-rays shortly, hopefully it will fix itself without surgery.

  6. Scarlett says:

    Hey Natalie, did you have to get PAO? I am facing a similar situation where I am having deep hip pain in the groin, outer area of the hip, and back that radiates down my leg. My doctor also said to maybe try the arthroscopic surgery first because my dysplasia is not severe but I am worried I will just have to get PAO in the end. I hope you’re feeling better and thanks for sharing your story.

  7. Natalie White says:

    Hi Scarlett,

    So I was doing really well, I worked really hard on my strength and I felt almost normal, I was back to a level of fitness that I was happy with. Then in February this year I turned to pick something up after a ride and my right leg literally just gave out on me. I think I tore the cartilage again, since then it’s catching and quite painful when extending the leg back as I walk, I have had days when its gotten stuck and I couldn’t put any weight on that leg. I am literally hobbling if I dare to go out on the town with friends! Lots of drugs required and someone willing to give me a piggyback.

    Its taken a while to get through the NHS but today I have finally had an MRI and X-Rays to check, I will have the results soon hopefully. The pain has gotten progressively worse from February and it defiantly feels like it did before. I am expecting to be told i’ll need the PAO but as of yet I don’t know what the plan is. I’ll just have to muddle through until then I suppose, tho I had forgotten how much it hurts and how tired it made me. As long as I don’t start dropping weight again (pre op weight 49kg, 2 years post op 61kg!!!!) and can sleep I will manage.

    The arthroscopie’s helped a lot and gave me two years of my life back but they obviously didn’t fix the problem, but the PAO is such a big operation I don’t think I would change the way I did it.


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