The year before I got pregnant with my daughter I was working out a lot. I played tennis and golf, I was going to pilates regularly and doing weight training with a personal trainer at the gym and hitting some kick boxing classes. I was even making the most of our treadmill at home. I was determined to be in the best shape possible before, during and after pregnancy. And then it hit me, a searing pain in my groin area that radiated down the interior part of my right leg. The pain was so intense that driving was excruciating and sitting even worse. I was alternating heat and ice, assuming I had pulled a muscle. I went to see one of the top orthopedic surgeons in Atlanta (where we were living at the time) and got an MRI. It wasn’t a pulled muscle, I had torn the lining in my hip. I had a labral tear. In 2008 when this injury occurred there were a handful of specialists around the country who did arthroscopic surgery to repair the tear, It was just becoming a recognized injury for runners, skiers and hockey players. And more and more often in professional athletes.
I was seeing the best sports orthopedist in Atlanta, but at the time, he had just completed his fellowship for this particular surgery and I was skeptical to have him do it. I opted to start with physical therapy. My therapist saved me! She did a lot of manual work in the beginning, really digging into all the tiny little muscles in my hip area. I have to tell you that other than child birth, this was the most painful process to undergo. No joke. Tears running down my face, gritting my teeth as she worked around my hips helping to alleviate the secondary symptoms I was experiencing from the tear. Then she put me to work, strengthening my core with exercises. It was working, I was feeling better. I still need to have the surgery but the doctor I wanted to see, Dr. Mark Philippon was in Vail and then, I got pregnant.
Strangely enough, pregnancy helped. Maybe it was the hormones that cause your hip joints to loosen. I don’t know. All I know is that the hip pain gave way to normal pregnancy experiences and my body shifted and adjusted to accommodate for the growing baby within me. After my daughter was born, it took me a while to get back on track and start working out again. But my hip just wouldn’t allow me to workout like I did before. I discovered dance classes, plyometric classes that worked my core and my glutes, strengthening my weak hip area without causing too much duress on that right joint. But I still couldn’t do squats and I struggled in yoga classes, unable to hold certain poses because of the weakness in my right hip.
Years passed. I knew I still needed the surgery but the logistics of it with a small child just seemed impossible. The pain came and went. I met with a specialist at Cedars to discuss my case and options. I was advised to wait until the pain affected my quality of life. Two years ago I reached that point. Driving and sitting for long periods of time were almost unendurable. I went back to the doctor at Cedars who said “well why did you wait so long?” and informed me that arthritis had set in and I was going to need surgery right away.
Angry I went to get a second opinion. I went to see Dr. Guanche at SCOI in the Valley who trains a lot of surgeons around the country – including the doctor who had originally diagnosed me in Atlanta.. He was lovely and sent me for an updated MRI. His diagnosis after seeing the MRI was that there were no signs of arthritis, but I did have FAI- Femoroacetabular impingement – a misshapen hip bone that was causing the tear or making it worse. Now we were talking about repairing the tear AND shaving my hipbone down. A more involved surgery. Dr. Guanche didn’t want to push for the surgery yet, unless my pain was really affecting my quality of life.
Not being able to go for long walks, enjoy a stroll on the beach, run up a flight of stairs, take a kick boxing class, wander for hours around Disneyland…um yeah…my quality of life was already affected. He gave me a cortizone shot in my hip to buy me some time to think about it.
A year went by. The pain popped-up sporadically. I still wasn’t working out. Mostly because I was working so much and being a mom. A friend recommended seeing Dr. Robert Klapper who had great success with hip surgeries. Dr. Klapper couldn’t have been cooler – a sculptor, surfer and weekend sports radio host, Dr. Klapper seemed like the renaissance guy. He also likes to take a conservative approach. He sent me for three months of physical therapy in the pool to try and heal my hip – or at least strengthen it before the surgery. Ok ok – stronger core and glute muscles equals an ability to recoop faster after surgery because you’ve done the preliminary physical therapy work, but the water PT wasn’t helping. Not in my case anyway. But I still read his book.
So another friend suggested I visit Kerlan Jobe. Their practice is known for hands, knees, ankle and elbow surgeries. They do hip surgeries but I wasn’t convinced that was the place for hip labral tears. They work with a lot of professional athletes so I knew they were well reputed but I wanted “the hip guy” – the surgeon who had the most experience with labral tears.
One of the physical therapists I was seeing recommended I see Dr. Jason Snibbe. She said “he was the labral tear guy.” So I went online and read about him. He has done thousands of these arthroscopic surgeries. Thousands. And low and behold, he trained with Dr. Mark Philippon in Vail, the doctor I wanted to see in the first place. Dr. Snibbe is also doing a lot of innovative work studying biomechanical changes in the joint and plasma replacement therapy. I liked his demeanor, he was straight to the point, spent a lot of time answering my questions and had an incredible support staff. The whole experience with him and his office was exactly what I’d been searching for. We did a new MRI (the last one was two years old) and decided to try something different. A PRP (plasma replacement therapy) injection in my hip. There’s a 70% success rate in women.
Its been a few months since the injection. I’m having no pain while driving (hallelujah) and very little pain overall these days. Most of my pain is sciatica type secondary pain thats a result of years of compensating for my weak hip. So I’m working with a new physical therapist, Gail Wehner to resolve those issues. Gail is a world renowned therapist, who gets referrals from all the top orthopedists in LA. She has been doing this for a very long time and is up on the latest techniques. As someone who has been managing my injury and working with PT’s on and off for 10 years I can tell you she’s incredibly knowledgeable and her methods work.
I still haven’t had surgery. I am working on strengthening my core and getting back to exercise, slowly. I know I will have to have the surgery eventually but until than I’m just grateful for the progress I’ve made.
I share this story with you because its crucial we be our own best advocates. Never settle. Always ask lots of questions, get referrals and demand the best. Choose a surgeon who makes you feel comfortable and provides the best expertise. All of the surgeons I mentioned in this post are top notch and any one of them would be a great choice. I based my choice on my comfort level. And it took me many, many years of interviewing and meeting with specialists to find the one I consider the best. You can click on the links in this post to get more info on all of the surgeons and physical therapists I mentioned. They are all top notch. And I’m sure at least one of them will be the right surgeon for you.
LAURA NIX GERSON is the CEO of Nix|Gerson Media and the Founder of MomAngeles a site she launched because she was planning a lot of playdates and her friends kept asking her where to go and what to do. So it seemed easier just to put it all online in one place. In a past life Laura was a publicist, event marketer and web producer….oh wait, she still is. Laura has contributed to Modern Mom, CBS Local and Babble. Her greatest joy is story telling, sharing local finds and connecting people. Follow her @MomAngeles.