Life sometimes throws you curveballs. As physical therapists we are expected to be the image of excellent health and optimal musculoskeletal function. I loved physical therapy school and everything about it. I was an athlete is college and ran at a high level of competition at the University of Miami in FL so it was natural I gravitated towards physical therapy. I was use to taking every task at hand with 100 percent effort non- stop. I wasn’t just a jogger, I was a competitor. If it wasn’t all out then what was the point?
Life had different plans for me though, and these plans are what shaped me into a better physical therapist then if I went on into life without a hitch with my “go hard attitude.” Suddenly after having no pain all through my college track career, I was diagnosed with left sided hip dysplasia shortly after physical therapy school. I was blind-sided and confused because I didn’t grasp how that was possible. Sure I had noticed all my life my left leg turned in a little bit awkwardly in natural stance, but I was someone who woke up most mornings since I was 14 and went for a run like it was a walk.
My journey then began in being a patient. A patient that had to research their condition, learn about it, and make educated choices about the best path for their health. I spent time researching the follow up studies for a procedure called a periacetabular osteotomy that I turned out to be a good candidate for. I spent time travelling to three different hip dysplasia specialists and no longer would look at a patient who travels to different doctors as extreme. I showed up to doctors with a list of questions ready in hand, something I now suggest to all my patients. I went through three different physical therapists before I found one that was right for me. I did 6 months of pre-op physical therapy diligently and became a physical therapist who spent a high amount of time in physical therapy! (Practice what you preach right?) Most importantly, I learned to have faith that everything indeed would work out in the end.
I would like to pass along lessons in healing I learned along the way:
- Healing is often not a linear thing. Two steps forward one step back is very common. It is more encouraging to look at your healing progression in longer timelines then day by day or you will get dragged down.
- Good things take time. Sometimes, doing an exercise four times a week for two weeks isn’t going to cut it. Be patient and understand basic muscle principles. Building an increase in muscle strength takes at least 6-8 weeks without setbacks or complications.
- Massage your scars when you can, your body will thank you later. A shower is a great place for this. Cupping really helped me with my post op periacetabular osteotomy scar.
- Rest is part of the program. This was my hardest thing to grasp given my previous attitudes. Some days your body feels good to stick to your program, other days it tells you otherwise. Respect those “otherwise” days and rest. It will help you get ahead faster in recovery then if you push through the bad days too hard. Sometimes “more” really is not better! Unless it is breathing, then I say breath away J
- Having a crummy diet while healing will do you no favors. Consider a well-balanced diet making sure you are getting the nutrients that you need. You may have a love affair with coffee but downing 4 cups a day with limited water intake during times your body is healing may not be your best choice.
- Research your resources and allow yourself to have options. After one year of physical therapy my physical therapist gave me the name of a trainer with experience in hip issues to help me “get back on the horse more.” It was one of the best choices I made one year post op. Being open to collaborative care will make you feel more empowered as a patient.
- Learn your new body and practice finding acceptance. Celebrate the new accomplishments. For me this included squatting with heavier weight for the first time again, sitting criss cross style again, being on my feet all day doing what I love without a thought of my left leg, and travelling to San Diego and walking miles on end with my fiancé exploring. Don’t get caught up in things you can’t do too many hours of your day. I will only do 65-70% of poses during a yoga class because certain ones will just not be good for my body. I’ve learned to be ok with that and use that time to focus on breathing. There are plenty of options for movement. See a physical therapist if you feel lost about your options.
- Healing is a good time to re-assess what is negative in your life and making adjustments otherwise. It is ok to be selfish during healing and changing situations that are not working for you. Learn to advocate for yourself.
- Its ok to mourn over an injury or setbacks. Allow this for only a certain time period and if you can’t find a path to start working yourself out of it there is no shame in counseling. I went through a time period of feeling sorry for myself and not wanting to listen to anyone who wanted to offer help. I realized it was time to advocate for myself and focus on what I could control and go along on the ride for all the ups and downs it would entail. I talked to a therapist for a while to map out what I could control and how to deal with what I couldn’t.
Today I am approaching my two years post op. Two years after having my pelvis cut and hip rearranged, and then 5 screws removed 6 months later. My scar is barely visible unless you are looking for it. I work all day on my feet doing what I love. I work out most days of the week and feel back to my athletic self. I have closer relationships to people in my life now. I am softer in personality and accepting of imperfections. I respect my body more and rest when appropriate. Most importantly, I am more motivated to live a life I want and follow my passions.
Andrea Wood, PT, DPT, PRPC