I was diagnosed with bilateral hip dysplasia in July 2017. I had struggled with what I thought was a groin injury for about a decade, but it became much worse in the year prior to my diagnosis. Over time, the pain moved more into my trochanter area and the muscles surrounding the hip joint. It never occurred to me that I might have a problem inside my hip, until a stone turned under my foot during a hike and I felt a shooting pain sear through my right hip in May 2017.
By the time of my diagnosis, I had tried many different therapies to heal what I’d always thought was a soft tissue injury. But my pain and disability kept getting worse, and I could barely walk. I’ll never forget staring at the X-rays with my surgeon and realizing there was nothing left of my right hip joint. By the end of the first appointment, I was preparing to have my hip replaced and trying to deal with the fact that the other one was going to have to be replaced too. I was 51 years old.
My right hip was replaced on September 20, 2017. It was a difficult and painful recovery that took much longer than I’d anticipated and some of my pain never went away until we figured out what was causing it. By December 2017, my left hip was failing. I figure it decided it had carried me long enough and it was done. I had my left hip replaced on May 16, 2018. That was my miracle hip! I was walking without aids in 4 days. I had so much less pain and difficulty that it was amazing. My physical therapist told me my first recovery was one of the toughest she’d seen and my second was one of the best. They say no two hips are alike and that certainly was my experience.
But after the second replacement, it became clear what was causing my difficulties on the right side. I’d had a cerclage cable placed around my femur to support it after my first replacement. My surgeon was concerned that the femur may have fractured, since it was already distressed from having waited so long. The cable is made of twisted wire and looks like a zip tie you would use to hold together electrical cords. It has a sharp end and rough edges on the clamp which were poking into my muscles. When I flexed them, you could hear them snap over the end of the cable! The doctor told me the cable might bother me and if it did, he would remove it. I had the cable removed on October 31, 2018.
It was amazing how fast everything changed after that. All my pain disappeared finally! I was able to walk up stairs and put full weight on the leg while doing yoga and Tai Chi without pain. I healed very quickly and within four months was back to all my normal activities. I am still regaining strength as of this writing, particularly in the atrophied muscles on my right side. I now have even leg length for the first time in my life. My right leg was always about ¼ to ½ inch shorter. I’m also no longer duck footed! I can’t really tell that I have implants at this point. The one thing I notice is that my point of balance, for example in one-legged yoga poses, is now out to the side. I realized I always hugged in to the midline of my body, because I didn’t really have hips out there to hold my weight. It’s a trip relearning these poses!
When I read the stories on this site, I am thankful I got 51 good years on my deformed hips before they gave out. When I was diagnosed, I was old enough that replacement was never questioned and that fixed everything. Within a year and 3 months after my diagnosis, I went from dysplastic to bionic! I am grateful to my skilled surgeon, his assistant and my PT’s for helping me get my life back. It is truly a miracle what modern medicine can do these days. I was up and walking the day after both replacements with a walker. I barely had to use the walker for my second replacement.
I guess my big takeaway was that I wish I’d gone to an ortho sooner. I tried rehabbing for too long and caused unnecessary pain and difficulty for myself. My second replacement was so much better because I didn’t wait too long on that one. I also wish I’d had that cerclage cable taken out at the beginning of last summer instead of the end. It caused me so much grief that I could hardly hike last summer, and it was so easy to remove.
For those of you who may be just embarking on this journey, or who may have replacements in your future, I want to say, “Don’t put it off too long. They can fix dysplasia and you can go back to all the things you love.” (Though you might want to stop the high impact sports…) I am now able to walk 3 miles regularly, swim 1000 meters 3-4 times per week, cross country ski 3 miles (including back country skiing which involves breaking trail through fresh snow), dance, lift and carry 25-50 pounds, go up several flights of stairs, and do yoga and Tai Chi.
When I was first diagnosed, I found this site to be incredibly helpful. It was especially helpful to find people’s blogs where they talked in more depth about their experience. It inspired me to start my own blog, which chronicles my journey from the beginning to now, complete with photos and video footage. You can reach it at: https://rhondaashurst.com/category/hip-adventures/. This is a non-commercial site and all the information is free for you to download and use as you wish. I put all the tips I have in a PDF called “Rhonda’s Hip Tips”, which you can find on my Resources page or at the top of the Hip Adventures theme.
Sending a big hug out to all my sisters and brothers out there dealing with dysplasia. This is, thankfully, a fixable condition. Find a good surgeon and PT’s to help you. Be good to you. This is a tough journey, but it’s worth taking and being able to walk. Hang in when you feel discouraged, it will pass, and you will do what you love again