A Year in the Life of My Left Hip

by - Wednesday, April 11, 2018

It was just about one year ago that I was out in Las Vegas with my best friend, squeezing in some long early morning runs on the Strip. During our long weekend there, I did runs of six and eight miles.

Perk of being on East Coast time -- an early morning run to the Welcome to Vegas sign on the relatively quiet Strip. #instatravel #nofilter #lasvegas

I was still in fairly good shape coming off the half marathon I did in March, and I was looking forward to carrying that fitness into Chicago Marathon training that was set to kick off in May or June.

My Vegas runs felt great, except every time I finished, my left hip was insanely tight. It hadn't yet reach a point of full on pain, and it didn't really hurt when I was actually running, but the post-run tightness made it uncomfortable to stand up and sit down.

I was trying to stretch it in hopes that it would go away, but when we got back from the trip, I decided to call my friend Dan, a physical therapist in the city.

I wanted to nip any early soreness in the bud before it developed into a full blown thing and totally derailed my marathon plans.

If you've been following along for a while now, you know that even though I started going to PT twice per week after that, my hip got worse, not better.

Despite all the stretching and strengthening, the injury exploded. It hurt to walk, so my commute to work became incredibly painful. Running was completely out of the picture. Spinning was a non-starter and even yoga wasn't comfortable.

I benched myself for a lot of my summer softball league because moving was painful.

Every time, we felt like we were making a tiny bit of progress in PT, I'd have some annoying backslide. It got so bad that I willingly let them try dry needling. I almost passed out the first time because I don't get along with needles.


My primary care physician on the recommendation of my PT sent me for an MRI. The scan wasn't conclusive, but it suggested I could possibly have a torn labrum, so I was referred to an orthopedic surgeon.

My orthopedic surgeon ran me through similar tests that I had been through in PT. Nothing he saw convinced him that I had a torn labrum. He put me on a super strong anti-inflammatory medicine, which meant I spent basically all of August not able to drink.

Going on a beach trip with friends and not being able to have a single drink was a bummer.

The medicine didn't help, so we tried a cortisone shot and hip arthrogram (basically a special MRI with contrast).


The cortisone helped a bit, and the second MRI said there could also be a torn labrum. The only solution for that is surgery, and my orthopedic surgeon was pretty against it. Every time he tested to see if I had any pain in movement that would have been consistent with a torn labrum, nothing hurt. He felt strongly that surgery wasn't a good option, because he might get in there and not find anything wrong.

I was not eager to jump into surgery, but I was eager to solve the problem, so I had mixed feelings at his reluctance. I had spent the summer miserable and frustrated and now we were well in to the fall and nothing seemed to be getting better.

My doctor decided to put me on an oral steroid to see if that helped.


I'm pretty certain it was magic because all of a sudden my hip pain was pretty much gone. I had much larger range of motion and basic movements like walking and getting in and out of my car didn't hurt anymore.

I went for a run in the fall for the first time in months and I actually cried happy tears because nothing hurt. I think I only went about a mile, but I was so happy.

I tried to incorporate some more running here and there throughout the late fall and early winter. I realized that while my hip didn't hurt, I was still having major issues with my glute and hamstring. My left foot would basically flop around like a dead fish at the end of my leg before hitting the pavement.


I'm pretty positive the glute, hamstring, hip stuff was all related, and it took a pretty aggressive steroid to knock out the inflammation so I could get a better sense of the whole picture.

Since my runs were not overly productive and I was worried about causing my hip to flare up again, I decided to put myself on a running hiatus through the winter. I don't love running in the cold anyway, and I'd sort of gotten used to not being able to run, so this wasn't as hard for me to cope with as it might normally have been.

I decided to spend winter focused on cross-training. I very specifically wanted to have a good mix of swimming and my barre3 classes that basically mimicked my PT exercises. I also threw in some yoga from time to time and a really rare spin class.


There were times when I was extremely consistent with my cross training, and then other times when I wasn't so great about it, but I think the last several months have helped me build a shaky, but at least sort of existent foundation on which to gradually re-introduce running.

I have run a handful of times in the last two weeks. All the runs have been short -- between 1-3 miles (except for that one day I did five on a whim because I felt good), and all have included lots and lots of walking.

One of my friends that I used to race with asked me about doing a 10K sometime this year. To me that seems like a good goal to work toward. I'm nowhere close to that right now though, and that's really hard for me at times. My running fitness used to consistently be at a point where on any given weekend I could run a half marathon.

I am a long way away from that now. It's not all this injury's fault. My couple of years in grad school definitely decreased my fitness levels, but now I'm truly starting at square one. There are days when running just a single mile feels impossible.


Now that I'm hopefully moving beyond this injury, I'm trying to find the positives: I didn't have to have surgery. I've been forced to focus on cross-training, which is good for helping with muscle imbalances and preventing future injuries. I found that swim class that I'm loving.

But I'm also nervous. I'm nervous that as I add mileage back in my hip will hurt again. I'm nervous that we never really solved the problem and that this is still a temporary fix (even though it's been almost five months since I took that oral steroid). I don't want to go through another year of all of this.

And while those nerves and that fear bounces around in my head, there's not much I can do about it. I mean I guess I could never run again, but that would make me pretty sad. So really all I can do is try to add running in slowly and smartly and then cross my fingers and hope for the best.

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  1. Before you know what happened, you'll hit 40 and the whole thing will really start to fall apart. Today I got an ulcer as a side effect from my arthritis medication. And I just ran a marathon on Sunday.

    A year of dealing with hip problems is totally absurd. It feels like a never ending crisis, but I bet you will indeed find the finish line soon enough.