What is your story about?
I'm a 19 year old male diagnosed with bilateral FAI. My symptoms first appeared in August of 2017. At the time, I was a competitive athlete. My symptoms progressed to the point where standing, walking, and existing were painful. I've had two surgeries on my left hip, but both have been unsuccessful. I regret these surgeries, and my life was made much worse by having them. I'm still in constant pain, especially in the hip that had 2 surgeries.
What symptoms did you experience and how did they progress over time?
In August of 2017, I started having intense pain in the front of my left hip during soccer tryouts. School athletic trainer thought it was hip flexor strain. Spent a few weeks icing, doing strengthening exercises, and taking pain pills. While resting, right hip started to feel the same deep pain for seemingly no reason.
My attempt to return to soccer a month later was the most intense pain I have felt in my life. 10 minutes of sprinting and cutting movements was excruciating - it felt like someone was stabbing me in the front of both hips.
Standing, walking, and existing were painful. My onl ...(more)
What was your diagnosis process like?
In March 2018, I got an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon. After seeing my MRIs and x-rays, he immediately diagnosed me with bilateral hip impingement. I was shocked, because I had actually been specifically told by a physical therapist that I did not have impingement.
How did you decide to pursue surgery?
Part of the theory of hip impingement is that it reduces range of motion, but in my case I was more concerned with the debilitating pain. In theory, having surgery for FAI allows you to get back to normal activities without pain. I felt like I finally had answers, I trusted the surgeon's judgement, and I was ready to be pain free. The decision to have surgery felt like the right thing to do after all I had tried before.
In May 2018, I had an arthroscopic surgery on my left hip. My surgeon repaired and stitched my torn labrum, and shaved bone off of both the femoral head and the acetabulum.
How was recovery from your first surgery?
I used a continuous passive motion (CPM) machine for 2 weeks, and was on crutches for 6 weeks. My surgery hip felt fragile and occasionally painful for a long time after that, but I followed my PT diligently. I started to bike lightly. Then I peaked. I could stand on my healing leg, but I felt pain after 20 seconds. So I took PT slower.
In September of 2018, I went off to college. Per my PT protocol, tried slowly building up to running on the treadmill, but I couldn't progress. I felt a deep cutting pain after a few minutes of jogging. I wasn't in a better place than a month before.
In Octob ...(more)
How did you decide to pursue a second surgery?
I spent a lot of time researching FAI, looking anywhere for advice. During this time, I went home, got another MRI, and consulted with my surgeon. His theory: "I might have missed a little bone, maybe I just need to go in and shave it off". I couldn't believe that I might need the surgery again. He told me that trying to see in the hip with an MRI is like "looking into a room with a muddy window", and that surgery was my best option.
In December 2018, I had surgery #2. I had my doubts, but I made the decision to have a repeat surgery on my left hip (same surgeon). He shaved off more bone, but ...(more)
How was recovery from the second surgery?
I'm coming off of my second surgery (Dec. 2018) on the left hip, and I really think my surgeon permanently messed me up. My range of motion is a lot worse in every aspect and a lot more painful. I also am working through a hamstring issue, so my main PT focus since January 2019 has been healing and strengthening the left hamstring. Now that the hamstring is getting better, I have progressed to frequent walks around my neighborhood. Unfortunately I am finding the more active I get, the more present my left hip pain is.
My abilities right now are quite limited. I have not progressed to squats ...(more)
Were there any side effects of the surgery?
My body compensated by giving me severe hamstring issues and I've also struggled with some back pain. My surgeon theorized that it could be some sort of hamstring tear, but any problem would go away by itself. He didn't seem very concerned with the hamstring pain, even though it made life extremely difficult. I took a holistic approach. I switched from NSAIDS to Tylenol, I strengthen and stretched at PT for months, I went to acupuncture, and I self massaged with a percussion massager. This approach has been quite successful for the hamstring pain so far.
What post-op advice do you have?
If possible, arrange so that you have people to help you with everyday tasks. Very simple things like dressing, cooking, showering, etc are very difficult/impossible without a helper. In my case it took about 6 weeks of healing to become reasonably independent. Definitely get a shower chair, it's an essential. And most importantly: Don't do too much too fast.
What is your current activity level?
I don't (can't) work a job right now. I'm doing online summer classes. I can manage walking a mile or two each day, but I'm reliant on Tylenol to deal with the pain. I still can't bike, swim, run, or hike on uneven surfaces.
I've also found that rest is a tough balance to find, it's very easy to overdo things with this recovery.
Is there anything you wish you'd differently in your athletic career?
I wish I could tell myself to go back and swim + stationary bike instead. I just wouldn't play soccer, or at least limit myself to one season out of the year instead of year-round. It's easy to say in retrospect, but soccer was the sport I loved, and the pain came with no warning when I was in the best shape of my life.
Do you have any concerns for the future at this point?
My main concern is not missing out on my life and youth. I don't want to spend all of college stuck in an apartment in pain. I hope to study abroad for a semester, and I'm not sure how my body will hold up for that. Surgery made my pain worse, so now I'm not sure how to proceed in recovery.
One of the biggest difficulties has been trying to find someone who treats the body as a system instead of treating each issue as if it exists in isolation.
Anything else you'd say to others with FAI?
Some words of caution: FAI is brutal and painful, but there is nothing urgent about it. Do not rush into surgery. There is very little evidence that untreated FAI actually leads to osteoarthritis. FAI is a relatively new and poorly understood diagnosis. MRIs and x-rays are notoriously unreliable for FAI. I personally have had both false negatives and false positives for labrum tears with MRI and x-ray. Also, the recovery can be much much longer than 3 months. Think 6+ months to feel close to normal again, depending on the specifics of your case.
You need to eliminate every possible option for ...(more)