Monday, December 19, 2011

My Journey Back to Running

Heading out for a run with Layla.
I have mentioned before in my blog that I am slowly easing my way back into running after having two babies and a fairly invasive hip surgery in between. I said I would explain, so here goes...

I first developed a pain in my groin area while pregnant with my first daughter and chalked it up to pregnancy pains. However, it never went away after giving birth and every time I tried to start running again it would hurt and I would develop a related, nagging injury along with it. I decided to just stop running until after I was done nursing to give myself more time to heal but it just got worse and worse. It hurt getting out of the car, playing with my daughter or even when walking longish distances. The final straw was when I went out for an easy bike ride and my hip locked up not even 2 miles down the road. After countless trips to different doctors without a definitive answer I finally started to think, "Am I crazy?  Is this all in my head?"

Nope. Hallejuha, finally an answer from a sports doc that told me what the problem was. I had something called FAI (femoroacetabular impingement) which was a fairly new diagnosis and likely why the other doctor's didn't diagnose me correctly.  FAI causes abnormal friction in your hip joint due to an excess of bone on the ball (femoral head) and/or the socket (acetabulum) thus creating damage in the joint. There are two forms of FAI, called cam and pincer, and generally you will have one or the other. I had both. Winner!

After learning more about what FAI was, it all started to make sense. I retired from triathlons partially because I was so frustrated with all of the injuries I developed. It seemed as though I could never reach my potential because a nagging injury would always come up. It turns out that the majority of those injuries were a result of my hips not working properly due to FAI.

I also quickly learned that in my case, I would require surgery. Yikes. Hip surgery at age 30-ish? I was lucky to find a doctor a couple of hours away from us that was one of the top experts on FAI. He confirmed the diagnosis and I set up a date for surgery soon after. He was honest and told me he wasn't sure I would be able to run again as it would depend on what he found during the surgery.

During surgery, the doctor shaved down the bone on both my acetabulum and femur so that my hip would hopefully work better. As far as damage in the joint, he found that part of my labrum had been damaged beyond repair so it had to be removed. In addition, I had a small section of bone that was damaged (from a fall I took on my bike) and he had to do microfracture on it to hopefully stimulate some cartilage growth in order to strengthen it.

After the surgery I got the news: I would be able to run. Yay!  Lucky for me, the microfracture was in an area that isn't a concern for running and the other work he did on the joint would not prevent me from running either.

Of course, getting back to running took a long time. First, I had to be on crutches for eight weeks with no weight-bearing. Then I couldn't run until 6 months out to make sure the microfracture healed. While the six months seemed like a long time, it had already been about two years at that point so I could wait (what's another six months?). 

However, six months later and about four weeks into starting to run again, I found out I was pregnant with my second daughter, so running would have to wait again. Fine by me. I could wait as I didn't want to put any more pressure on my hips at that point and figured that would just give it more time to heal. 

After having my second daughter, I'm happy to say that I'm back to running. Granted, my pace is slower and my distances are shorter but I'm running again! After having gone through what I did, I have a new perspective on running. I feel lucky that I simply can run and will never take it for granted. I hope to be able to race again at some point but if my hips can't take it I'll truly be happy just running for fitness. 

Give your body a big thank you for what it allows you to do!