Hip Dysplasia – It’s Not Just For Dogs

About five years ago, two years after my twin daughters were born when pain seemed to become part of my everyday, I finally learned the source of my chronic pain. Hip dysplasia.

It’s been a long time coming, as the saying goes. These hips have taken a lot of pounding over a lifetime of 40+ years; much more so than your average human being who wasn’t born with hip dysplasia. What’s that you ask? A misshapen hip joint and a pelvic bone that didn’t quite cover said joint. In and of itself, one can be quite happy with hip dysplasia well into her 70’s or 80’s. In fact, one (such as myself) may never even know one has hip dysplasia. But couple that bone structure with years of hard pounding sports – field hockey, tennis, volleyball, running – on top of everything else and well, the pain will quickly tell you that something isn’t quite right. And instead of feeling that pain in your 70’s or 80’s, you start feeling it in your 30’s or 40’s or 50’s. And yea, that’s pretty darn young to be dealing with such things.

How did I find out I was one of a growing number of [relatively young] people being diagnosed with such a condition? Recovery from my twins’ birth wasn’t going as quickly as I’d planned. I’d been a relatively fast healer from most of the injuries in my life – a ruptured Achilles tendon, a torn ACL, a torn MCL, a broken finger bone and of course, numerous  (too many to count) sprained ankles. But after my girls’ birth, after the first 6-8 months of supposed post-delivery aches and pains hadn’t dissipated, something else was clearly wrong. My back. Ugh. It hurt.

It turned out that my back was really just a symptom…of my hip problem. Regular visits to a chiropractor over a period of a few months, returned my back to normal…and then the pain began to sporadically shoot through my hips. Physical therapy, I thought, was the answer.

For about a year, I did physical therapy at a wellness clinic in San Jose. Though I felt stronger, the pain was still sporadically there. It was time to see an orthopedist…again. I was a bit hesitant to take this step. It would mean that I wasn’t getting better and that something could be seriously wrong. Nope, I really didn’t want to hear it.

Hip dysplasia. That’s what he said. And at that moment, I had no idea what the doctor was talking about. Oh sure, he certainly explained what it meant but it really didn’t hit me as to what it was and what it meant to my lifestyle. He did say that I would probably  need some time to let this sink in and he was right. The final thought he left me with – that I would need to replace both hips (THR) some time in the next 3-5 years. He assumed it would be the earlier of that estimate.

I hit the Internet and started researching. Searching on hip dysplasia brought up all kinds of articles on female dogs. Hmmmm…did I hear the doctor correctly? I made a couple of more appointments. Two hip surgeons…who yea, confirmed the other diagnosis. Their recommendation? I was young. I should put surgery off as long as I could…until the pain was too intense. Do you know what else I learned?

  • I was too old and my arthritis too far along to have a successful PAO (peri acetabular osteotomy);
  • The first born daughter will always have hip dysplasia in families where it runs;
  • A second hip replacement will be in my future since current ones (five years ago) last about 10-15 years;
  • High-impact sports will be prohibited;
  • More and more people are being diagnosed with hip dysplasia in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s because the past few generations include a larger population of people who were involved in high-impact sports all their lives.

I was sad. So incredibly sad. No hi-impact sports. Tennis? Volleyball? Turns out those were the worst sports for one’s hips. Those were also the sports I’d decided were my sports. Sports that I would love to teach my girls to play someday. Sports that I could play for the rest of my life. But…no more.

I went back to physical therapy. I learned that stretching was the best thing I could do for myself to help stave off surgery. Unfortunately, the hip area is not the easiest part of one’s body to stretch. After I felt relatively good, I stopped physical therapy and figured I’d work through what I needed to do on my own.

Fast forward to last year. I was about to spend a summer in Norway in a Norwegian language immersion course at the International Summer School in Oslo. I would be riding a bus, lugging around books and walking long distances. In preparation, I went to physical therapy to help ease the pain and tightness that seemed to be getting worse. Biofreeze and Ibuprofen were the keys to my survival over the summer.

At the beginning of this year, I decided it was time to seriously get back into physical therapy and get rid of the pain. But after a week of diligently doing the home exercises prescribed for me, nothing helped. My physical therapist thought it might be a good time to get updated x-rays and see an orthopedist. I was starting to think the same. Luckily, she took the extra step of setting up an appointment for me with a local hip surgeon *and* arranging for x-rays to be taken. Those x-rays happened that afternoon and the visit with the doctor, the next morning. It was that fast.

That morning, while filling out some forms, the doctor glanced at the x-rays.

“So, what have you been waiting for?” he said to me with a slight smile. “Come on back. We’ve got a lot to talk about.”

“Oh maaaannnnn,” I thought. Here we go.

No cartilage. None whatsoever in my right hip. He didn’t even have to ask about the pain. He said there were a few questions they ask every patient in order to determine if it was time to move forward with surgery – is the pain stopping you from doing everyday things you have to do? Is the pain stopping you from doing things you want to do? Is the pain keeping you up (or waking you up) at night?

I didn’t even have to think about those questions. Yes, yes, and yes were my answers but I already knew it was time to move forward. Pain brought me back into a doctor’s office. The lack of cartilage in my hip confirmed my suspicion. Physical therapy was no longer an option. The pain would only get worse. It was indeed time. The only real question for me was how quickly could I have this done?

p.s. At this time, my right hip has been successfully replaced. Check back soon for a post with more details.

An original post to It’s Never Easy But It’s Always Fun blog.

To see all of my posts related to my hip surgeries and recovery, check out these posts:

The Waiting is Over

Hip Dysplasia – It’s Not Just For Dogs

Halfway There – Right Hip Done!

You May Now Call Me The Bionic Woman

Time to Start on Some Personal Challenges

Finding My Temporary Limits

Too Much, Too Soon


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