I am a 22 year old female runner who was diagnosed with hip dysplasia April of 2015. I had my RPAO paired with a arthroscopic labrum repair. After my diagnosis, I was scared, sad, and confused, but reading other patients stories really helped. So, I decided to share my own story in hopes of helping others through the journey of hip dysplasia.
January 2015: The pain begins…
This is when my journey began. I was a huge runner and had been training for a half marathon in January. Throughout training, I felt an uncomfortable pain in my upper right hamstring, but played it off as a sore muscle. I finished my half with a huge PR, but the pain was much worse.
April 2015: Time to see the doctor…
After seeing a sports medicine doctor for the pain I was experiencing, he did not see anything wrong. He gave me stretches to do and told me I could continue to run. So, I decided to go through with my half marathon on April 12, 2015. At mile 8 of this race, the pain moved to my hip and it slowed me down almost to a walk. It felt like my hip was catching and popping out of the socket and was EXTREMELY painful. My mom and I researched doctors who specialized in hip pain, and ended up scheduling an appointment with a doctor in Colorado.
After X-rays were taken and angle measurements were recorded, I was diagnosed with hip dysplasia. I was told that I could try physical therapy but that there was little to no chance of getting better and being able to run again. Or, I could do a PAO surgery in which they would actually fix the bone structure and there was a very, very good chance I would fully recover and be back to activity without limits or pain. I was sent home with a big decision to make and plans to have an MRI to see if there was any damage to the labrum in addition to the hip dysplasia.
May 2015: MRI results are in…
I had the MRI done and went back to the doctor in order to discuss the results. The labrum in my hip was, in fact, torn, and would require additional surgery to repair it. At that point, it seemed the only way I would be able to run again and avoid a very premature hip replacement would be to go through with the PAO.
The doctor specialized in arthroscopic surgery, so the labrum was right up his alley. Yet, he referred me to another physician in Colorado to do the PAO portion of the surgery. I met with the new doctor and he deemed me to be a perfect candidate for the PAO. I decided to do the surgeries one right after another on the same day rather than have them three weeks apart. And the surgeries were scheduled for August 25, 2015.
August 2015: PAO and Labrum repair surgeries…
On August 25th, I checked in at the hospital and prepared for my surgery. I opted for an epidural to numb the pain for the first few days. Dr. The PAO doctor performed his part of the surgery followed by the surgery to my labrum. Despite the doctor being optimistic about being able to repair my own labrum, he ended up having to use synthetic material to repair it because it was damaged beyond repair. And between the two doctors, this was the only thing that did not go routinely.
I was in the hospital Tuesday (day of surgery) through Saturday. The catheter that they had to put in was the worst part of the first two days. Something must have gone wrong with the insertion of it, because if anyone even got near it , boy did it hurt. But, because I had the epidural in, my hip was virtually pain free. Thursday morning the pain from the catheter became too unbearable and they took out the catheter and epidural simultaneously and switched me over to pain medication. It took a bit of time to get the pain meds to catch up with the pain, but once we found the right balance, I was good to go. Though that is about all I remember from the hospital.
September 2015: Weeks 1-4 post PAO
The first week was not the most fun I’ve ever had in my life. A lot of this week was spent in the hospital. When I was released on Saturday, I found out just how complicated everything had become. I was using a walker to get around at this point in time because crutches were just too unsteady. I needed a raised toilet seat to go to the bathroom and a shower seat for when I showered. I had compression socks on both calves and what I called “squeezers” on top of those to keep the blood flowing since I was mostly sedentary. As long as I kept the pain medicine pretty regular I was not in too much pain.
The second week I became a little steadier on my feet. I was able to use crutches occasionally under my parents’ supervision. Stairs were still out of the question. The pain was still under control and I was even able to decrease how much of the narcotics I was using. I hate pain medicine, so the sooner I could get off of it the better! When I would move around, I would feel pain. Not unbearable, but it was definitely there. It was mostly on the inside of my hip, which I later learned was one of the places where they cut it. The worst part of this week was the numbness and unusual blood flow in my right leg. Though, this went away around week 3 or 4. I was not able to lift my leg at all and pretty much relied on family and friends for everything at this point. Though, I tried to get out every day and walk outside. At this point, my walks were probably 100 yards, but let me tell you, 100 yards a week or so after a major surgery is more tiring that it seems!
At the 2 week mark after surgery, I went back to the doctor for a check-up. X-rays were taken and he examined them in his office. He was VERY pleased with the results and told me that my bones were healing nicely. He explained everything and answered every question I had and told me to continue to use the crutches non-weight bearing for another 4 weeks. I got the stitches out and was sent on my way. The labrum doctor was amazing throughout this entire process and I am so beyond thankful that I had him do my surgery. The rest of the third week was much like the second. I could lift my knee up slightly towards the end of week three, which felt like I just won the Olympics. My daily walk also increased in distance as my muscles and entire body were gaining stamina back. I was seeing the physical therapist twice a week and basically just trying to get range of motion back. The blood flow issues were less, which made it easier to sleep. I was also able to leave the house occasionally to go to the store or a friends house, but I did not last too long before I had to retreat back home and rest because I would get so tired. I was almost off the narcotics at this point and was pretty much just on Tylenol. This was also the week that I started getting more comfortable on stairs, which was great because I finally got to see my room!
The fourth week was even better than the third! I was completely off narcotics at this point and was very happy about that. I was able to go out to dinner with friends and family, though getting in and out of the car was still an issue. I had to have someone lift my leg into the car since it didn’t move itself. But overall, the pain was under control and my energy was coming back. I did bring a soft blanket with when I went anywhere because sitting on hard surfaces was not very comfortable. I also avoided crowds for fear that they would bump me on my crutches and I would fall and damage my hip.
October 2015: Weeks 5-8 Post PAO and the beginning of Weight Bearing
The fifth week was similar to the fourth. I was able to walk all the way to the mailbox on my crutches (about a quarter mile) which was a big accomplishment. My arms were getting huge from all the muscles I was building, but my right leg was visibly smaller. Mentally this week was one of the harder weeks because I was feeling so much better but still couldn’t really do much. I had to be careful not to put weight on my hip, which meant I missed out on a lot. Though, it was good that I finally wanted to do things again! After reading other patients’ stories, some of them cheated the non-weight bearing and started putting weight on it sooner than they were cleared to do. I stuck through and continued to use my crutches, putting absolutely no weight on my right leg the entirety of the 6 weeks. I honestly think that is one of the reasons my hip looks as amazing as it does now! So, if you’re reading this, please do what the doctors tell you and don’t cheat the system. The best part about the fifth week was the fact that it was closer to my 6 week appointment where I could potentially weight bear again!!
The sixth week was very exciting! I continued to see small improvements in how I was moving and could feel some of my muscles starting to wake up. I was not even on Tylenol at this point and had very little to no pain ever. I continued my walks to the mailbox and even went a little further. During this week, my left hip started to hurt pretty bad. I was warned that this was a possibility due to the left hip having to do ALL the work, but it definitely made things a little more difficult. Instead of having to worry that my right hip (the surgery side) would hurt, I had to worry that my “good hip” would cause me problems. But, the exact day, 6 weeks after surgery (October 7th) I finally had my appointment to see about weight bearing. The Xrays showed that my bones had healed abnormally fast, which I was SO happy about. The doctor was extremely happy with the results thus far. He said the coverage he was able to achieve was about as close to perfect as you could get and that based on my bones and how they were healing, I was cleared to weight bear!
The seventh week was so rewarding. In physical therapy, I was able to start strengthening my leg again. At this point, I was still using two crutches when walking, but I was putting more and more weight on each day! I could feel the leg getting stronger and there was no pain with any of it. My physical therapist was very pleased by my improvement and I can’t even describe how happy I was. By the end of the seventh week I was beginning to use one crutch around the house but continued to use two when I went out anywhere because it would still fatigue easily.
The eighth week I could see even more improvements. I am currently 8 weeks and 3 days post-surgery and am using one crutch to get around but no crutches in the house. When I don’t use a crutch, there is a pretty noticeable limp, but I am having no pain in the hip itself and have been told that the limp will go away as my leg gets stronger. My knee and foot are sore just because I am starting to put more weight on and they have to get used to that again, which will go away as my leg gets stronger as well. I visited with the doctor and he said everything looked great and that I was ahead of schedule. He originally gave me a 6-month timeline from surgery until I could start running again, and he said he is very confident that we can stick to that, if not be ahead of that timeline by a bit. In physical therapy, I am doing squats and step-ups, which I never thought I would be doing two weeks ago! I even went on a 2-mile walk today, using one crutch for most of it but taking small segments to practice walking with no crutches! I am in no pain, but my leg definitely feels a bit tired. Nonetheless, I am so proud of what I have been able to accomplish!
It was such a hard decision whether or not to do the PAO in the first place. The recovery is definitely not easy and this process has been extremely mentally and physically challenging, but I am SO happy I chose to do it. With very little to no pain a little over 8 weeks out, I am so incredibly pleased by the results of the surgery so far. The first three weeks are by far the worst, but after that it really gets exponentially better each week! The doctors I had were amazing to work with and truly cared about me and getting me back to running as quickly and safely as possible. From what I can tell, the surgeries have made my life so much better and I owe it all to my amazing doctors. I also can’t leave out my physical therapist, he did a phenomenal job getting me strong again. It is really nice to work with him because he is out of the same office as my other doctor and they talked frequently to make sure they are on the same page with my recovery.
I know I still have a long road ahead of me, and it could be even longer if I end up having to get my left hip done too, but I know in the end it will be so worth it. I often dream about that first run back, pain-free and worry-free, and I honestly cannot wait until that moment. But, for now, I will continue to be diligent about my physical therapy and abide by the rules that the doctors give me. Thank you for reading and if you or someone you know is in the position to have to get this done, know that you have support behind you!