Patient Perspectives: Labral Tear Repairs and the Long Road to Recovery

ICYMI: Refer to last week’s post where I explained the factors that led me to decide on having hip arthroscopy to repair a labral tear and Femoroacetabular Impingment.

So….I had the surgery.  How did it go? There were a lot of people out there doubting that I’d made the right choice.  In the physical therapy world, there’s this obsession with “Imaging doesn’t correlate with pain” and “pathology doesn’t correlate with pain”….well,  to put it bluntly, y’all need to calm your asses down.  True, imaging and structural pathology don’t ALWAYS correlate with pain. There are plenty of people with structural abnormalities who are asymptomatic, and plenty of people with debilitating pain for no obvious mechanical reason.  But, guess what, there are also people who have pain AND pathology! Can we say that the pain is due to pathology? No, not definitively in every case. You have to TREAT THE PERSON IN FRONT OF YOU by taking in ALL the information you have.

Mid-20s female presents with symptoms of labral tear.  Gets imaging, tear confirmed. Gets surgery, pain goes away and never comes back.  3 years later, same symptoms on the opposite hip.  Tear confirmed on imaging. What are you going to do?

Anyway, so I had the surgery.  The operation itself, I’m told, took 75 minutes, no complications. The tear was a little larger than imaging had suggested, but still small enough to fully repair without a graft.   I stayed the night in the outpatient surgery center with a nice drip of pain meds, slept like a baby, said some really goofy things, vomited once from the anesthesia, and went home the following morning with a continuous passive motion (CPM) machine, a vasocompressive unit (for ice + compression, to treat swelling and pain), and some opiods, which, surprisingly, I never needed.

Weeks 1-3: this was the sucky part.  For the first 4 days I had all your usual post-op woes; my whole leg was swollen, I had orthostatic hypotension from spending so much time in supine (which, for someone as active as me, was not a normal position), my morning coffee wasn’t working it’s usual digestive magic, I needed assistance to do literally everything. Things markedly improved after the first week, and I’m so lucky that my mom flew down to NC to take care of me, AND that I happen to live with my boyfriend, who was also right by my side for everything I needed.

The shocking part about this that I noticed right away was that I HAD NO PAIN. Zero. Zip. Nada.  Didn’t take a single dose of the Oxy, and only took aspirin and naproxen as prescribed to prevent clots and calcification, respectively.

Really, my main complaint during these first few weeks was loneliness.  On the one hand, I was exhausted all the time (anesthesia + healing from surgery is no joke!) and didn’t really care too much in those first few weeks about not being able to run or lift or hike.  On the other hand, all of my friends were out hiking, running, playing pickup volleyball, getting together on the weekends…and I was at home in my CPM.  It was really rough, mentally.

Weeks 4-5:  Learning how to walk again.  LOL. It took two weeks for me to built the leg strength back and to normalize my gait.  At this time, I also started riding the stationary bike for range of motion, and got back into the gym doing upper body weights (tricep push, lat pulldown, chest press)

Week 6: Able to walk at a normal speed again.

Week 7: I fell in the bathroom.  This set me back a bit in terms of pain, and it took until week 9 for things to start feeling good again.

Week 9 -11:  Starting to build back my cycling volume, adding small amounts of resistance (like, level 2 or 3) to my 45-60 minutes of biking per day.  Also doing my PT exercises at least once per day – and at week 9, we finally got off the treatment table and into the gym!

Week 12: Here I am! My PT exercises are finally starting to feel like an actual strength workout, and I don’t have any pain.  Soreness and fatigue from pushing the envelope, yes, but no pain.  I’ve still got quite a long ways to go, but for now, I’m really happy with my decision and with the progress I’ve made.  I’ll keep the updates coming as I keep moving up!

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