My Recovery Journey: 5 Things I’ve Learned 1 Month Post-Op
By: Erin Garber
Today officially marks 1 most post-hip surgery. One month might not seem very long for some, but it has felt like an eternity for me. I might not be an “athlete” anymore, but fitness has become my identity — I mean, I own a company that is based around working out at local studios and hosting fitness events…fitness is my life. Not being able to work out as usual has been really hard to deal with for me personally (wow it feels very dramatic writing that).
A little backstory on my injury and what got me to where I am today. I’ve been an athlete my entire life. I started playing soccer when I was 5 and lacrosse when I was 7. Through middle school and high school, I was on multiple club travel teams for both sports and ended up playing Division 1 lacrosse in college on a scholarship. Throughout those years, I had many injuries (tweaked back on multiple occasions, sprained ankles, pulled everything, stress fracture, AC separation) but nothing that ever required surgery or kept me out for too long.
As I mentioned above, I’ve tweaked my back on more occasions than I can remember. So, a couple years ago I decided to go get a back x-ray after yet another tweak. The doctor had said my back looked normal…so, I just moved on.
Last summer, I met Dr. Graham of Sporting Medicine through my friends at Performance Unlimited. I told him about my constant back pain and brought him in the old x-ray I had taken of my back. He agreed that my back looked normal but also noticed from the back x-ray that my right hip had some dysplasia (essentially my hip socket was too shallow and didn’t support the ball of the hip). Since I wasn’t in any pain and was in the midst of wedding things, I decided to skip getting x-rays specifically of my hip as Dr. Graham requested (shame on me).
Fast forward to January of this year – I started to experience pain in my hip and glute inhibition (aka my butt wasn’t firing) when working out – specifically when lunging, squatting, stepping up, or pushing off my right leg. I immediately called Dr. Graham to let him know what was going on and finally listened to his request to get updated images — which he was able to get me into right away. The x-ray confirmed that I had FAI / CAM impingement. FAI aka Femoroacetabular impingement is a condition where the bones of your hip joint come too close and pinch tissue or cause too much friction. CAM is a type of FAI which is a bump that forms on the edge of the femoral head. Dr. Graham also explained that typically with the grinding of the cartilage, comes a labral tear. Shortly after the x-ray, I got an MRI to confirm the labral tear and then it was time to discuss next steps.
I wanted to avoid surgery at all costs so we started with a cortisone shot into my hip (not fun) and some physical therapy while cutting back on my workouts. After a few months of no relief, I decided it was time to go ahead with surgery to repair the labrum and to reshape both my acetabulum and hip socket so that the bones no longer pinched. I went through OrthoCarolina and Dr. Weeks (a well known hip surgeon in Charlotte) for my arthroscopic surgery on July 10th and here we are today.
As I mentioned before, it has officially been one month post-op. The first week was pretty awful and I definitely wouldn’t believe that I would be where I’m at today with progress. With all of that said, I’ve learned so much over the past month. More specifically:
The mental game is the toughest – There were days I would just get so frustrated and feel defeated. I know I’m not alone in feeling that when most “athletes” or fitness professionals get sidelined, we worry that we will lose our conditioning and muscle mass, we worry about gaining weight and we have major FOMO (fear of missing out) when missing out on events or workouts.
Don’t take the little things for granted – Things that seems so easy before were so difficult. Getting in and out of bed, sleeping, showering…all of the normal things we do on a day to day basis that are just easy and that most of us don’t even think about. It reminds you not to take a single thing for granted.
Learn to accept leaning on other people and asking for help – This couldn’t be more true. I really don’t think I would’ve survived if it weren’t for my husband taking care of me and friends and family bringing me over food and snacks. I’m one who hates asking for help but I had to learn to let all of that go the first 2 weeks after my surgery.
LISTEN to your doctor and physical therapist – Just because you think you can walk without crutches 2 weeks after surgery, doesn’t mean you should…especially if your physical therapist and doctor are telling you not to. Listen to them and trust them.
Celebrate every little win – I truly learned how to celebrate the little wins each day. The first time I got on the bike, the first time I could get into the shower by myself, the first time I could stand in the kitchen to make my own food – seriously. Celebrate. every. small. thing.
I’m super thankful for the team I have had in my corner throughout the past month. Dr. Graham of Sporting Medicine has essentially been my concierge / on-call doctor (especially when it was difficult to get a hold of my surgeon or PA after surgery…the things they don’t tell you). Just last weekend, I had a minor incident where I fainted (come to find out it was a vasovagal response– never heard of it until now) but Dr. Graham sent me ASAP to get an ultrasound to make sure it was nothing more serious than that. I can’t thank him enough for all the help he has given me from the beginning to end of this process — after all, if I didn’t go to him last year with back pain, I probably still would be in a circle of pain and frustration.
Dr. Annie Linville of GROW PT is an amazing physical therapist and has become a great friend over the past 4 weeks. After all, she has to put up with me twice a week for another several weeks (it’s not easy y’all). She has been great in reminding me that I need to take things slow and trust the process.
I know that a year from now I’ll be thankful to get all of this past me and will be 110% (even better than before) both physically and mentally. Here’s to the next several months of recovery ahead!