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
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.