After my last race report I was asked about my pain before and after so thought rather than replying as a comment, I would try to document my pain over the last 5 years from prior to my replacement to my operation, starting to race, my post operation injury and now my comeback. I’m not sure it will help all of you but if you can see similarities hopefully you know that you need to give your body time to recover, cross train to build up your core, glutes and upper body, and listen to your body and slow down when you feel discomfort.
I was lucky in that I didn’t have significant pain before my THR, what I did experience was almost like a trapped nerve. I would be sitting or lying down and then all of a sudden my left leg would jump as if the nerve got pinched. Some nights it was very annoying as it would interfere with me trying to get to sleep lying in bed. As far as walking, towards the end I could only walk about half a mile before I started limping, prior to that I could walk without a limp. I think what eventually led me to decide to have it replaced was that just standing on the beach fishing, walking in and out of the water watching my lines, changing bait, my hip would start hurting. I had delayed this decision for 10 years after being diagnosed as bone on bone after being told for 10 years prior to that I had hip dysplasia. Once I decided to have it replaced I decided to start running so I would be stronger when I had the operation. At first I could run every week, a few miles with some walks every half mile or so. Towards the end I could only run every other week as it took longer and longer to recover from a run, if you could even call it that. It was like having a plank tied to my left leg, I ran about 25 yards then had to stop and walk 25 yards and repeat that. The week before my operation I did that for 6 miles, I can’t tell you how many people stopped at the side of the road and asked if I needed a ride.
After THR Operation:
The day after my operation I lay in bed and was in some pain but nowhere near as much as I thought I would and by the second day was feeling fairly comfortable. I couldn’t walk the first day because I got dizzy when I stood up but the second day was fine and I was able to leave on the third day. From then I didn’t use a walker, just a cane for a month but was back in week after 2 weeks. My limp had gone and apart from the hip area being tender didn’t suffer any pain and stopped taking any medication apart from to help me to sleep once I left the hospital.
For the next 18 months I really didn’t have many issues at all. I started running after 3 months and I had a 5K race scheduled for 1 month after that. I did experience a lot of numbness in my lower left leg, calf area and a pin size sensitive area that was painful in the middle of the calf. On the day of my first race with my nephew and niece visiting from England I didn’t think I could run as my calf was so tight. Luckily after some light massage I decided to run and was able to finish in 26:30, the same time as one year earlier when I started training for my THR. There were several other times when I had similar pains and calf tightness but eventually it went away. Then over the next year I started to run a little further and more frequent until I started to race about 20 months after my operation. For the next 6 months I ran several 5K’s, increased quickly to 10K’s, then my first half and the week before I ran that signed up for my first marathon just 7 weeks later. It was after my marathon that I started feeling more pain again in my hip. I had crossed the line in a Boston qualifying time of 3:19:12, was given a bottle of water and had a medal placed over my head and then as I tried to walk my hip had stopped working. It felt like it did when I was training for the THR, painful, severe limp and pain down the side of my leg. After walking it off for about 15 minutes the pain eased and 2 days later started training for my next half about 3 weeks later and another 4 weeks after that. Not being an experienced runner I continued to run 6 days a week and race and very 3 or 4 days my hip would get bad again but if I walked it off it was fine and the next day I would train again. The pain then started at the very top of my leg, more in my front groin region before it started heading to the outside when my operation scar was and then down to the inside of my left knee and then down to my ankle, at the top was more of a pain but from there down it was my leg becoming very numb. After continuing this process for 3 months the pain would occur every day I ran, but if I paused, walked I could then resume running. I did this for a couple more months before my hip gave up completely in a 5K race around mile 2 and then I wasn’t able to run a mile before the pain intensified in the groin and quickly moved down as described above. At first I tried not running for a couple for days and then tried again with the same result, then I took a week off but the same on my return and then a month off and exactly the same before I reached a mile. I went back to my surgeon and he took x-rays but said everything was fine, several doctors later and a couple of thousand dollars on a chiropractor, masseuse and physical therapist no one had any remedy and I still could run a mile. Eventually I decided to take 6 months off with no running at all and just focused on swimming, biking, boot camp and yoga which I had taken up over the previous 6 months trying to recover.
After a year of not racing and 6 months on not running I resumed a very light training on a treadmill one day a week, 3 miles at a very slow pace. I changed my run style, significantly increasing my cadence and concentrating on a mid to fore foot strike and a couple of other slight modifications. I continued this for about 3 months only increasing my distance and frequency a little until I felt I was ready to start running outside. I was lucky that I had started a job in Miami and therefore was away from all my running friends in the Tampa area and not under any pressure to run, a pressure I always put on myself as I find it hard to say no and not run fast. I found a run club and started running with them, just 3.5 miles each week and gradually picked up the pace to where I felt I was ready to race again, 18 months since my last race. There were certainly some times when I felt like my left like wasn’t quite right, almost as if it was half an inch shorter than my right leg or that it wasn’t quite screwed on correctly, not painful but it just didn’t feel right. Last December I ran my first comeback 5K in a time of 20:42 and was very pleased and without any pain and in January ran a 5 mile race at a very similar pace. After watching my friends run the Miami half marathon in Miami I decided I was ready to try that distance and set a race date of March 22nd and started training more frequently and longer distances. I would feel a little discomfort on the outside of my left leg near the incision area, more of an aching pain, nothing severe. I started to ice the area every evening and morning for 20 minutes to help manage this. I didn’t do any fast speed/sprint work as a couple of times I did my hip would start to sing and I would feel discomfort and would then limp a little.
So March 22nd came and started to warm up. For the first time not sprinting the inside groin area was a little tight and sore, I hadn’t felt any pain in that area for the 10 weeks or so I trained and had ran a 1:37 practice half the week before with no issue. If anything I did feel a little tightening of my muscle in my calf area at times but nothing like when I started my THR recovery. I tried a few moderate stride runs but didn’t feel like I could plant my left leg down and push off easily. I wasn’t sure how well I would be able to race and was doubtful of hitting my revised goal time of 1:35 after the previous weekends practice half. However when the race started it felt fine and I ran fast and strong with no pain for the first 10 miles or so. I did start to feel a little soreness in my hip but nothing more than in my training and continued to push and amazed myself finishing just 5 seconds of my PR time of 1:31:21. Again though similar to the marathon my hip reacted badly and I was unable to walk easily being asked by the medics to go to the tent, which I didn’t. Again this was more on the outside near the incision area. I took 3 days off and then started with a light run, albeit 10 miles but again could feel a pain in my groin area, numbness moving down my leg and soreness on the outside of my hip area. I also still didn’t feel like I could push off strong on that leg juts kept the pace slow. At my next couple of runs I backed of my speed and distance and also reduced my training to 4 days a week. I’m still feeling some discomfort and it only feels 80% right but have started to up my training a little but continuing to ice frequently. On my last 10 mile easy run, it almost felt like my leg was twisted as I ran, from the top, down to the knee and then continuing down to my ankle. It didn’t last all the run but did for the first 5 miles or so. I don’t take any medication for the pain or anything, but I do take glucosamine chondroitin tablets each day.
Right now I haven’t set any more race dates and will continue to monitor my pain as I try to recover. I hate missing races but having had to take a year off I’ve learnt how to be patient and better educated myself.