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Monday, June 9, 2014

I'm not a hypochondriac or, pre-surgery thoughts

It's time for a serious post about my injury, a hip labral tear.
Last summer, I was coming back from a long-misdiagnosed femoral stress fracture, and everything was peachy until a vague, diffuse pain appeared in my left thigh. I did what any good runner does who feels pain - stopped running, called my doctor.
My doctor shrugged off the pain, saying I didn't need a doctor - I needed a coach. Nice, except resting didn't help the pain. A coworker sensed my frustration and recommended a different sports medicine doctor.
This doctor did some x-rays, and there was a lump on my bone: a wide area of sclerosis along the fracture site. He prescribed rest and calcitonin. But when I returned at follow up with unchanged pain, he gave up on me. He told me that my injury was in my mind, that the lump on my femur was part of the normal healing process, and that maybe I just didn't like running and should do something I enjoyed.
He told me I was a hypochondriac, and when I insisted the pain was real, he snapped, "Don't bully me into a diagnosis!"

I left the office in complete frustration and confusion. How could I be imaging this injury? Had my recent injury just made me a worry-wart? But I love to run. Why would I find excuses not to do it?
Was I a big wimp about pain? I thought back to the 40:59 10k I ran earlier that Spring. I saw my doctor four days later for pain that just wouldn't go away, and it was a complete fracture of the femur. I ran two 10ks and a half marathon with a broken leg. But now I was making up pain in my thigh?
I kept a little quiet about this non-diagnosis on the blog, half out of skepticism, half out of embarrassment.

And now? Now I'm going into surgery to repair a torn hip labrum. It's torn, it's frayed, and it's probably been there for awhile. It's not an incredibly common injury, and it's hard to diagnose because of the relative rarity and the ambiguous symptoms (like, surprise, pain radiating down the leg). And my non-specific symptoms, referred pain, and tolerance to groin pain (I've had osteitis pubis symptoms for so long that I don't ever report groin pain; it's normal to me) made the diagnosis harder. So I give my doctors a little break. But a simple MRI showed the tear, and a doctor who took me seriously would have tried to dig a little deeper.

Don't let this happen to you. You deserve a diagnosis, and you deserve to be taken seriously. If your doctor keeps shrugging you off when you have a legitimate injury, find someone else! You have to take charge of your own health and healthcare, because no one else will do it for you.

19 comments:

  1. I can't imagine how frustrating this has been for you. So glad you got a diagnosis and solution! Best of luck to you!

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  2. When this happens, do you let your previous doctors know of the new diagnosis (along with evidence like the MRI)? That would help the learning process for everybody, and stop them from gaslighting future patients into submission ('you're a hypochondriac and you are imagining things').

    Good luck with the surgery - I hope it goes well and that you're back to a happy level of fitness soon.

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    1. I'm actually considering the best, most non-jerk way to do this now.

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  3. That's great advice to get a second opinion from a doctor. A few years ago I switched over to a sports medicine doctor as my primary care physician. My prior doctor just didn't get it when I asked when I could work out again! Glad you got a diagnosis and have a plan for recovery. Best wishes!!!!! Kristen

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    1. Or a third opinion, in my case :)

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  4. I'm glad you're finally getting it repaired! Hopefully this will alleviate the pain. I think you just summed up why I usually refuse to go the doctor (which is really stupid, yes I realize this), but there just seems to be so much conjecture, and run-around, and avoidance of really trying to find the specific issue. Of course I understand the liability factors they face, but it just seems it's a complete guessing game with most. Anyway - when is your surgery again? I think it's coming up right?

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    1. The last time I had a "well visit" (if I'm well, why am I at the doctor???) the clinic miscoded my visit as a surgical procedure, and I got an $800 bill. I agree, stay away.

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  5. I'm so sorry you've had to go through all this to find a solution. Your post is spot-on, and it's not just true for injuries, either. It goes for all types of healthcare. Years ago, I dislocated my SI joint. I was ignored like you were, told it was just a muscle strain. I hobbled around for a week with my joint out of socket! And the bad thing was that b/c it had been out for so long, my healing took longer once I was properly diagnosed by a new doctor.

    Runners are usually VERY aware of what's going on with our bodies. If we know something isn't right, then something isn't right.

    I'll be thinking of you in regards to your upcoming surgery. I know you'll bounce back quickly and soon have this whole thing behind you.

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    1. Exactly! If I voluntarily choose to run 26 miles and am willing to deal with Gi distress, weird chafing, and lost toenails FOR FUN, I think I know when I have real pain.

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  6. THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS!!!!

    I tell people all the time... YOU have to be an advocate for your own health. If something doesn't feel right/seem right... it probably isn't!

    Anyway, good luck with the surgery and good for you for sticking to your guns!

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    1. Actually I crawled away with my tail between my legs... and went to a different doc when the pain suddenly worsened. I just got sick of dealing with that doctor, He was such a tool. He refused to even look at my PT report.

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  7. It really, really sucks that you lost so much time and had to go through so much frustration in order to get it right. Best of luck fixing the tear and moving forward!

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    1. Thanks and good luck to you in your healing process, too!

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  8. It is really frustrating! Glad you've got a diagnosis and a plan. I saw your addendum on your last post vis à vis labral surgery leading to degeneration...in my case it was a torn labrum that was never dealt with that preceded degeneration. I'll bet it can go either way. Opting for no pain NOW is so smart. Good luck with it all.

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    1. My thoughts exactly. And I conferred with my doctor and we agreed to repair, not remove, the labrum at almost all costs, which reduced the risk of early arthritis. So hopefully we'll get some good outcomes.

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  9. So frustrating for you! Had they done the test in the first place you would have been spared months of not knowing and you may already have been on your way to healing. I've had my own issues with misdiagnoses and was out of running a year longer than I should have been had any one of the many specialists bothered to ask for just one specific blood test. Thank goodness for the internet and being able to investigate on my own behalf or I'd be still struggling with it today.

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    1. Ugh, I feel your misery. Glad you could do your own sleuthing.

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  10. OMG. That's such bullshit (the doctors, I mean). Who snaps at patients & whines about being bullied?? I'm glad you were tenacious & kept looking for the real problem instead of giving up. I think most people probably take whatever the first doctor tells them as gospel, eg, "Well, you're the one with the medical degree, what do I know about my own body?" I really hope your surgery goes well, & you recovery quickly & are able to do however much running makes you happy.

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