Over the last, oh, five years or so, I have had a pain in my butt. I always thought it was my piriformis and attacked it with the foam roller. This would sometimes help relieve the pain and sometimes didn’t. But I would just keep running, ignoring the pain. Fast forward to marathon training in early 2014, when I went out for an eight mile run with my training partner, Randy. It was an evening run so we took it easy. I got in the car to drive home and when I got there, I couldn’t walk. I crawled into my house and used the foam roller along with a tennis ball and the pain finally eased up. My husband declared to my children, “Ignore mom, she is in self-induced pain.” I ran ten miles the next day without incident. The marathon was slow and my glute was killing me pretty much the whole time.
But it all went downhill from there. My butt pain increased and before I knew it, I had pain on the outside of my hip and low back. I went to the chiropractor to see if some adjustments would help or if he had some stretches that would ease it up. After several weeks, he declared me a lost cause (His actual words were something like, “I can’t fix this, I can’t keep taking your money. You need to see an ortho.”). I finally made an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon. He thought maybe it was bursitis and gave me a cortisone injection. Initially, the injection seemed to help a little bit and I did my 10-mile race as planned the next weekend, painfully slow. However, it wore off after that and I was back to square one. The ortho sent me to the physical therapist. The therapist assessed my hip and said, “I think you have an impingement and possible tear in the labrum, get the MRI now.”
After researching impingements and subsequent labral tears of the hip joint, I called my ortho and requested he order the MRI with arthrogram. After some back and forth with the insurance company, the MRI was approved. The arthogram, which consists of an injection of contrast dye into the hip joint, was quite uncomfortable and the MRI only lasted about 30 minutes. A couple of days later, I picked up the results from the hospital since I would not be seeing the ortho until the following week and I have no patience. It was a labral tear. I was devastated. Labral tears do not heal. This meant I would be having surgery and would not be able to run for quite some time. My family feared for their safety.
The ortho I had been seeing did not do hip arthroscopies and sent me to a specialist in Novato. After the arthrogram, my hip was killing me. I started having the telltale groin pain along with all my previous symptoms as well as a noticeable limp when I walked. I met with the specialist a couple of weeks later and told him my story. He said that when I crawled into the house, most likely the labrum had become trapped between the ball and socket of the hip joint, and then freed itself. Everything kind of fell into place, all the pain and suffering over the last year made sense. It was nice to know that I wasn’t crazy and there wasn’t something wrong with me. We scheduled surgery for March 4, 2015.
At this point, I hadn’t run since January of 2015. I read that upright stationary bikes play a large role in recovery so I bought one and used it as a stress reliever. It wasn’t the same. I resented that stupid bike. I still do.
Surgery day had finally come. We arrived at the surgical center at 6am and they prepped me. They took me into the OR and that’s all I remember. I woke up in recovery and asked the surgeon what the damage was. He said I had a large labral tear of about 5cm and a CAM impingement on the femoral head that he shaved down. He used three suture anchors to repair the labrum. I had a femoral block so I couldn’t feel much in my leg. I was sent home with crutches, ice, and a prescription for Percocet.
Once the femoral block wore off, I had some aching in the hip as to be expected from the surgery. However, all of my old pain was magically gone. It was like a choir of angels singing. I was on crutches for about two weeks. I started physical therapy at about 4 weeks, mostly core work. I was also doing 10 minutes at a time on the bike, slowly with zero resistance. At about 8 weeks, I started having some hip flexor discomfort and had to take it easy. Hip flexor tendonitis is pretty common after this surgery. It’s still somewhat tight, but it is better.
By week 12, I was feeling great. I went to see my surgeon’s PA and she told me to ease into running and that I could return to full duty at work. So I started with a walk/run program and resumed my duties as a home health nurse.
Fast-forward to week 16 when I started experiencing some deep groin pain and butt pain. I saw my surgeon and he suggested a cortisone injection to calm down the inflammation. He said that he didn’t think anything was wrong and that the scope was successful, but I was likely experiencing a flare up because of my return to work and increase in activity. I had that shot on Monday and yesterday, I did a 2-mile run without any pain. Today, I have no groin, hip, or butt pain. My fingers are crossed that the injection helped. It seems to have helped so far.
That is where I am now. I am doing a short run every other day, alternating a 30-minute ride on the stationary bike with some light strength training. The recovery process is painfully slow and I am not a patient person. My husband has been great through the entire process, very patient, supportive, and helpful. He really stepped up to the plate during my recovery and I am immensely grateful for it. My kids have been helpful. My running partner, Randy, has been a great source of support, both mentally and, well, beer-ily. He has encouraged me that I will, in fact, run again one day or else he will break my knees. Well, he didn’t actually say that but that was the implication. Some days I feel like I will be back to half-marathons before I know it and some days I don’t know if I will ever run more than three miles. My mood fluctuates daily.
To be clear, running did not cause this injury. I had a bony growth on my femur, possibly caused by genetics (mom had a hip replacement in her late 30s), which tore the labrum. If I hear one more person suggest that had I not been a runner, it would not have happened to me, I might lose my mind. It will not be pretty. There may be jail time.
This injury has required a ton of patience from me. Of which I am in short supply. Of course, it couldn’t be bursitis. Go big or go home, right? I am definitely starting over. Never mind the five full marathons I ran, the eleven half marathons, the countless 10k, 5k, 5 mile, and 10 mile races. Never mind the thousands of miles under my belt before this injury. Never mind the 20 milers in the rain. Never mind the hours and hours spent pounding the pavement or the countless number of shoes I destroyed with running. Post hip arthroscopy running is a different beast. And I am starting over from the very beginning. My speed is gone. My endurance is gone. But I am working on it.