For the past 18 months, I have been on a hip journey. Because the whole process was so mysterious and frustrating, I have decided to write about it so other people experiencing similar symptoms can maybe gain some insight. In the end, my very mysterious symptoms turned out to be a labral tear, a too tight hip flexor, and a bit of arthritis. It was fixed by arthroscopic surgery–where they make two small incisions in the side of your hip (they look like butterflies!) and go into one with a camera and use their tools in the other. And I have come to deeply appreciate people who choose to devote their lives to performing surgery. This is a relatively new kind of surgery–uncommon and only invented in the past ten years. So I consider myself enormously fortunate to live in these times. When I was diagnosed, I had never heard of any of these ailments. When I googled them, I could find no information on them, which is why I am writing this post.
It all began in April of 2011. I went to see Lucinda Williams at the House of Blues in the French Quarter and stood in high heels for more than 2 hours. They were low wedge heels, but never the less–HEELS! As my husband and I were walking back to the car (a loooong walk), my hip seized up and my leg crumbled beneath me. It felt like a muscle spasm in my right hip flexor. Every time I tried to step on my right leg, my hip would seize and my leg would crumble. My husband thought I was joking, but I limped to a lamppost, wrapped my arms around it, and laughing in disbelief, told him to go get the car and come back and get me. He said I was just having a muscle spasm and to walk it out. After a few minutes of rest, I was able to walk the rest of the way back the car.
I didn’t know why this had happened–I was 42 and exercised regularly and was in pretty good shape–but it only happened that one night so I didn’t worry about it.
Until a month or so later. We went to Martha’s Vineyard where we spend each summer. Every day on the island, we walk to a beautiful cove of turquoise waters and white powder sands. It’s a long walk from the car–through the woods, up a big deep sand hill, and then a long walk down the beach to the stream where the kids like to play. After a few days of walking this route, my hip started “seizing up” again. I was lugging snacks, towels, toys, kids…and I didn’t know what was happening, so I tried walking backwards, sideways, any way to get to my beach. I told my Pilates teacher I was having trouble walking in the sand. He said my femur was out yanked on my leg. Strangely, it fixed it! The pain went way, but even more strange, the following week the same pain started in my left hip flexor! After a month of it getting worse and worse, I went to see an Orthopedist. He took one look and told me I had a labral tear in my hip. I had never heard of a labral tear, and said “Are you sure?” It was a very quick diagnosis. He said he was positive and that the only resolution was surgery so I should just hope it would go away. I told him I couldn’t walk in the sand to the Cove. He told me to go to a different beach. The rest of the summer was an exercise in frustration as my hip go worse and worse until I not only couldn’t walk in the sand, but I couldn’t walk on any surface without my hip cramping, my leg buckling, and me limping.
That Fall, I got referrals to orthopedists in Boston. I went to see Dr. Miceli because he was the Ortho for the Boston Ballet, and since I had spent many years as a professional dancer, I wanted to be in the hands of the “best.” Now, ballet is completely different than belly dance, which is what I did professionally, but I also did circus acrobatics and had been heavily involved in yoga in the past few years.
And that was the other odd thing–in the past 6 months, my hips had become even more hyper flexible. I just thought the yoga was working magic on my body. All of a sudden I could do things I couldn’t even do as a child–sitting in splits comfortably for long periods of time; sitting in straddles and laying my stomach and chest flat on the floor; etc. I don’t know if this ahd anything to do with what was happening in my hips, but…
So, I had to wait a month before Dr. Miceli could see me. This was a month of me limping around, unable to play with my kids or run or do any walking. I knew I would be sent to get an MRI, so in the meantime, I went to see Dr. Perryman on the North Shore. He sent me to physical therapy, which made it worse. The MRI didn’t show anything amiss. And so I was off to Dr. Miceli.
His office is at Boston Children’s Hospital. He barely examined me before saying labral tear, and referred me to Dr. Mininder Kocher, a world-renowned arthroscopic surgeon and orthopedist, also at Boston Childrens. I had to wait another month to see Dr. Kocher–another month of pain and limping. Dr. Kocher suggested another MRI, this time with dye, followed by a cortisone shot if he could see the labral tear. After waiting three weeks for the MRI appt. he saw the tear, and then I had the shot. This was right before Christmas, and I was able to go sledding with my kids on Christmas Eve–actually tromp through the snow! I was thrilled, but it was short-lived. The shot wore off and within three weeks, I was limping again.
In January, Dr. Kocher said surgery was the answer, but then his office told me he didn’t operating on adults for several months–they couldn’t give me a date!! I was so upset! I had waited months between appointments for the supposed best, and he didn’t even work on adults!! Except rarely!!
But then his office referred me to my savior–Dr. Bojan Zoric. He’s the Orthopedist for the U.S. women’s’ soccer team, is well-versed in labral tears of the hips since it’s common in pro-athletes, and he had performed over a thousand arthroscopic surgeries on hips. He had been to UCLA and Harvard, just like me. When I met him in his Newburyport office, he was younger than I thought he’d be, and so kind. We scheduled the surgery for the end of February, right after Mardi Gras and Disneyworld. (Both of which I valiantly limped around). I have never had surgery, never had anesthesia, and I don’t respond well to pain meds of any kind–they make me very very sick. I was scared, at an unknown hospital, surrounded by strangers. The surgery was supposed to be one and a half hours, but he found so many things going on in my hip that I was under for three and a half hours!! He ended up fixing the tear, lengthening my hip flexor which he said was so tight it was snapping against my hip bone, and he found arthritis in an unusual spot and cleaned that up… and I don’t know what else. My parents came to help me with the kids since I couldn’t’ go up and down my stairs. they came for a week and ended up staying two. They were fabulous and healing and fun and took such good care of me, making me laugh and just being so lovely. The kids were great–we watched a lot of old musicals–my favorite–and the kids would dress up and perform awesome waltzes and shows for me. I couldn’t even move my leg forward to shuffle along at first, my hip was so weak. But within 1-2 days, I was able to walk on crutches. My Dr. had ordered a machine for me that slowly moved my leg up and down, keeping the blood circulating, facilitating, healing. I healed quickly, and was driving within a week (the hard part being getting in and out of the car). 5 days after surgery I was able to walk across the street with my crutches to watch my daughter perform in the town play. I was down to one crutch in 10 days, and completely off them in 2 weeks. I started physical therapy twice a week, but I was still limping and in pain. (I don’t take pain pills, and didn’t even take them after surgery! I’d rather feel pain than the nausea that comes with the pills). Within 6 weeks, I was doing better, but my Dr. told me it would be at least 6 months before my hip started to feel better. So in July of this summer, my hip still felt like it was seizing, and I was still limping and unable to walk long distances. I was very discouraged and thought I was probably one of the unlucky 10% that the surgery didn’t help. My Dr. then told me he was seeing more of an 8-10 month recovery in women my age. Then, at the end of August, 6 months after my surgery, something magical happened. All of a sudden, I went 12 days with no pain! The first time in more than a year. After that, it would seize a little here and there, and feel sore here and there, but the seizing pinching pain disappeared! I was elated! I started doing things I hadn’t been able to do! I felt so happy! I did a handstand last week on the lawn with my daughter, and felt my hip pull in an uncomfortable way. I backed off, but it felt fine after 24 hours. Every day last week, I tool long walks through the woods with my kids. I even walked in deep sand! And guess what: no pain!! I am hopeful, finally, that I actually may be healing!