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Monday, July 27, 2015

A year later: a very honest hip labral tear surgery report

It's been over a year since I had surgery on my left hip. To briefly recap, I had had nonspecific, undiagnosed pain and hip/groin/thigh problems for almost two years. It got suddenly worse during a 5k, and after unsuccessful rehab attempts, I had the damaged hip labrum debrided and the femur and socket reshaped. It's been a year since that surgery, and over six months since I had my right hip repaired. I caught it earlier, so it was not as damaged.
Now that it's been a year since this whole surgery thing started, I'd like to share honestly how I am doing...and take any questions you may have!
How does your hip feel now, a year later? Is it pain-free?
No, it is not pain-free. It's nearly pain-free: but sometimes, it bothers me. It doesn't hurt to run, but I might perhaps wake up with stiff hips or feel pain when standing after sitting a long time. Sometimes I feel - not quite a pinch, but sort of an ache in the groin. But it is night and day from what it used to be: I was in so much pain with a torn labrum that I didn't want to put weight on it at all. Now, although I have to pay attention to it, I can almost run care-free.
What do you do to maintain a healthy hip?
I spend about 15 minutes a day on hip PT exercises and stretching, and I could probably do more. I have focused a lot more on good form, good shoes, etc. Usually once a week I do a longer hip-exercise routine as well.
How long did it take for your hip to feel "normal"? 
I was cleared to run at 8 weeks post-op for my left hip, and NO WAY IN HECK was that happening. I was not ready at all. In fact, I was sure my surgery had failed! But by 12 weeks, it was incredibly improved. Yet it felt stiff, off, painful, lose, weak - you name it! - until about 5 months out. However, I don't want to delude you - it never has since felt "normal". I can always tell I had surgery on it.
What feels different about your hip now? 
My hip extension is incredibly poor. Sometimes my hip clicks oddly. Occasionally - about once a month - it flares mildly and starts to hurt or pinch. A rest day usually takes care of that. My left hip moves smoothly, but sometimes my right experiences a lot of psoas hip-snapping syndrome.
What has your doctor(s) said about your running?
Both my doctors (My favorite surgeon  moved in December and I followed up with another doc, boo hoo) were favorable toward continuing to run. In fact, that was in my "goals" section of my chart - return to sport at same or higher level. However, Dr. Van Sice reminded me that because the labrum was debrided, I need to watch out for arthritic symptoms! I have not exactly achieved what I should have by this point, but I'd rather take things too slowly than too quickly.
What issues do you face post-surgery?
I feel like my left leg is weaker than the right. Because the damaged labrum was removed, not repaired, there will always be less cushion in that hip, and it shows. I have to fight a habit to rely more on my right side - that just causes other issues. I do have pretty significant scars on both hips, although the right is a lot worse; I also have a harder time running than I used to due to weight gain post-surgery and an altered gait. As I mentioned before, my hip extension is several inches shorter than it used to be, and it has made my running more in front of my body than behind.
Do you have to take anything for pain?
No, never.
Debridement vs. repair: which is better? 
One million times better: repair! My right hip was repaired, and although the initial recovery is longer and more painful, it feels almost brand-new. My left hip still causes me problems.
What activities are off the table now that you had surgery?
I can never treadmill run again, apparently. Possibly marathons. I would love to do one again, but I am sure it would require a huge amount of work to keep the hips strong, and I'm not sure I have the time!
Would you do it again if you had the choice?
Absolutely. Surgery was life-changing. It really was. I was in so much pain before surgery and was so limited - I walked with a limp, I couldn't climb up on a chair or high step, I couldn't do squats or lunges without pain, I even had to sit down to put on shoes. That's no way to live!

That's about all I can think of. Any questions for me? I'll be happy to answer them!


  1. It's nice to be able to look back and know that you made the right decision regarding surgery.

  2. I am glad that you can look back and say you are glad that you went through the surgery. I didn't realize you were in so much pain before, though! I can see why you were motivated to do this surgery!

  3. Two questions: 1. Do you think weak hips led to the surgeries, or were they inevitable regardless of hip strength. 2. Why do I cry at the end of sad movies, especially "Field of Dreams"?

  4. 1. I think weak hips combined with scoliosis led to surgery.
    2. You are overly emotional.

  5. I'm so glad you had a positive result from these surgeries. When I was having my back problems, the word "surgery" was my biggest fear. (Back surgery is also wildly inconsistent.)

    One question: Why can't you run not he treadmill anymore? It is a mechanics issue?

    1. The belt travels toward your hip socket as your hip travels forward, essentially doubling the impact. My doctor said that his only experience with re-tears was on treadmills, so he nixed it.