In 2013, I had increasing lower back pain when I was deadlifting and doing Olympic lifting drills from a hang position. My form was perfect and I wasn’t lifting enough weight to justify a belt, so the pain didn’t make sense. My sports massage therapist treated the lumbar area every couple of weeks, which gave me a few days’ relief before the pain returned.
My physiotherapist suggested that it might be tight hip flexors, so I stretched them, did trigger point work and had hands-on therapy. I also saw an osteopath who suggested additional stretches. There was no improvement and the pulling, pushing and twisting in the sessions left me in agony for days, so I stopped the treatment.
After a couple of months, I modified my exercises, based on how my body was feeling. I thought that if I stretched enough and received regular sports massages, I could manage the pain. When my left hip started to hurt around April 2014, I took the problem more seriously, as my squatting and Olympic lifting were giving me a sharp pain at the base of the movement.
My physiotherapist suggested a specialist as my symptoms indicated Femeroacetabular Impingement (FAI), where the typical diagnostic routine is: impingement tests, MR Arthrogram (MRI with dye injected in the joint), hip block injection (local anaesthetic with cortisone), then surgery.
CONSULTATIONS WITH SPECIALISTS
My first consultant did impingement tests on both hips (both were positive, ie. they hurt) then MR Arthrograms. There was some post-injection pain in the left hip but not in the right one.
The follow-up consultation confirmed that I had FAI with labral tears in both hips and that an arthroscopy on each hip may be required. I was referred to another consultant, who would perform the surgery.
I had a CT scan, then a hip block injection to numb the hip before the impingement test. This was to rule out referred pain from somewhere close to the affected area, especially as I have endometriosis and IBS. The CT scan allowed the surgeon to build a 3D image of each hip, to establish what bone work was needed.
A hip block injection normally contains a steroid (like cortisone). Having had cortisone injections in both shoulders, with only four months’ relief, and knowing that both shoulders and possibly both hips needed surgery, I wanted to ensure that my body was as healthy and chemical-free as possible, in order to get through a lengthy recovery period. I decided against including the steroid injection.
IMPACT ON TRAINING
I continued exercising, but slowly eliminated exercises as my body could no longer cope with them. During squats and Olympic lifting, I felt a very sharp pain when at the base of the squat. Playing around with my foot position allowed some relief, but a couple of weeks before the first hip surgery, I needed to give them both up. I had to eliminate lunges, box step-ups and any movement that shortened the muscle, until I was left with only the leg press to parallel, hamstring curls, leg extensions, deadlifts and RDLs. It was enough to get a decent workout from a body-building perspective.
With modified exercises, I continued strongman training and metabolic training with my personal trainer. I was still able to do running interval training with my sister but for a couple of days after, my hips would seize up if I was sitting for longer than 10 minutes, and I would need something to hold on to, so as not to collapse when getting up from a seated position. My hips would crack and my legs would tremble as I slowly started walking.
During my follow-up consultation, I decided to opt for surgery. The left hip had a mixed impingement and the right had only cam. I could either live with the deformation in my hips, not exercise until the labrum healed on either side, and exclude running, squatting, Olympic lifting or strongman training. Or I could have the surgeries, a full recovery period of 6-10 months with no heavy lifting, but I would be able to resume a normal training routine again. I love to exercise, especially weight lifting/training and I could not imagine not being able to continue lifting, so I had the left hip operation in October 2014 and the right one in January 2015. 6 months after the last operation, I overtook my previous pre-surgery personal best and managed 600lbs on the leg press for 8 repetitions.