Claire’s Story

Claire and her Mum

I started having left hip pain in 2016, but, like most people, ignored it and lived with it. The pain started to get worse in 2017 when I was training for a half marathon running event and had recently completed a 100 mile cycle ride. But, again, I managed it enough it live with it. In 2018 the pain was progressing at a rapid pace. It began to interfere with my normal daily activities, and, more importantly to me at the time, playing hockey. I wasn’t able to change speed or direction or lunge for a tackle without being pulled up with hip flexor spasm and excruciating pain.

I had had enough and decided to get it checked out by a hip consultant. I am a physiotherapist and truly believed I only had a labral (cartilage) tear in the hip needing an arthroscopy surgery. I had fallen off a water-ski a few years previously and could only attribute it to that. When my consultant asked me the ‘standard’ hip dysplasia questions, I initially did not believe him. It was only when I saw my x-ray that I was convinced. I had bilateral (both sides) hip dysplasia with retroversion.

I remember not being too worried initially. I think I was in shock. It took another month before it truly ‘sunk in’. At this point my pain was rapidly progressing and my right hip was nearly as painful as my leg hip. It was interesting as it wasn’t just the pain that affected me. I was exhausted all the time. I had gone from someone who kept themselves extremely busy to not being able to move off the sofa when I got home from work or able to walk more than 30 minutes at once.

Unfortunately, my first hip consultant was not a specialist in hip dysplasia, but he had mentioned some of the treatment options, including a periacetabular osteotomy (PAO). I then was referred to a specialist in London, who is fantastic. I had my first NHS outpatient appointment on 14th February 2019. Yes, a very exciting Valentine’s Day for me! I was so pleased when the appointment came around as the pain was interfering some much with daily life and I wasn’t sure how I would keep going. Unknown to me, I was going to be extremely lucky as my consultant had a cancellation available for a PAO 10 days later. I could not believe it; of course I jumped at the opportunity. The next 10 days were a panic of sorting practicalities to prepare for the surgery. Looking back I feel really lucky I did not have the chance to stress and panic about the surgery as the physical practicalities took over all my time and thoughts.

Monday 25th February 2019, aged 32 years old, I had my left PAO. It was a tough, painful and slow recovery, but also a mentally challenging recovery. I was really lucky that I had a couple of ‘PAO buddies.’ We had all gone through the surgery at similar times. Actually, one lady I was in hospital with as we had our PAOs on the same day. I cannot express to you how fantastic it was to have the support of people who were or had gone through the same thing.

I moved back to my parents’ during the recoveries. I do not know how people go through the PAO recovery without support. My poor parents had to help me with everything, from drinks/food to dressing and showering to making sure I took my pain relief at the right time. All my inhibitions about being naked around your parents go very quickly when you need that much help….but to my parents and family, I will be forever grateful for your help. I was strict during my recovery and stayed on my elbow crutches for about 14-15 weeks to ensure that I had a good walking pattern. I refused to have a habitual limp.

I finally felt strong enough to return to work 4 months after my PAO, but had a phased return to work and limited the amount of clinical work I did initially. I returned to work for 3 months and had my right PAO on 30th September 2019, yes 7 months later. I decided I wanted to get the major surgeries over with as quickly as possible. I was well aware that the bony correction from the surgery was only the beginning on the journey, and much physical rehabilitation was yet to come.

I often get asked the difference between the two surgery experiences. The RPAO was so different. Firstly, I had time to think about it, and boy did I stress and worry about it. I had just got some independence back, and now I was about it loss it again. Secondly, the pain was so much worse; it took me 5 days to get out of bed. My body responded to pain by creating muscle spasms and inhibition. My hip adductors, the muscles on the inside of your leg, went into spasm. I could not move in bed without them stopping me, let alone get out of bed. I eventually was prescribed a muscle relaxant which gave me a little relief to allow me to get up and walk enough to allow me to go home.

Once that pain eased my right hip progressed well. But then my left hip started to deteriorate. I have hip impingement and a labral detachment in that hip. This pain has affected my recovery as my right hip is struggling to gain enough muscle strength to be more functional. I am now waiting for a left hip arthroscopy to hopefully ease this pain and allow me to progress my rehabilitation further. Unfortunately, my surgery date was cancelled due to the coronavirus. I am currently working on getting fitter and stronger in preparation for my surgery. I am looking forward to getting to my ‘new normal’ to discover what physical activities my hips will be able to cope with.

This is a brief summary of my hip dysplasia journey, I have written a blog with more details of each step throughout my journey. Please feel free to have a read to get a fuller picture of my journey.