I recently posted on my experience with hip arthroscopic surgery for labral tear repair and FAI here. The journey has been tough at times, and my goal has been to stay positive and motivated. Now 2 months has passed, and here is an update on my exercises, progress and tips for recovery.
This time around surgery recovery feels like it is progressing quickly, because I was only bound to crutches for 2 weeks instead of 6. This helps you feel stronger and more mobile faster. Things have been going well for the most part. I have been slowly gaining more and more strength and motion over the past several weeks. Every once in a while, there is a significant amount of pain that feels like inflammation deep in the hip. At my 6 week post-op appointment, my surgeon told me that the hip flexor is inflamed and very weak. The goal now is to strengthen it slowly, without overdoing it (tricky), because when it is weak, it actually hurts more.
In the last month, I have been spending time in the pool doing pull, on the stationary bike, hitting up the gym and working on physical therapy exercises.
Physical therapy exercises:
- Clam shells
- Glute bridges with leg lift on one side
- Leg raise from laying down position to strengthen hip flexor
- Core stabilizer – bend knees at 45 degrees and lower one leg to the ground (alternating)
These have all been progressed from whatever I could do at the beginning, to about 3 x 15 reps today.
Last week (7 weeks post-op) I added some more:
- Half-way squats (squat about half-way down into a seated position)
- Leg raise on all fours -lifting the leg behind you to activate glute and alternating
The motion is still not perfect, and there is often some pain and inflammation in the hip area, however, the doctor warned me that I might experience pain until up to 6 months post-surgery.
Activities I am able to do:
- Elliptical for 30-40 minutes
- Stationary trainer with very low resistance for 30-40 minutes (lowest 2 gears in the big ring are the max)
- Swimming mainly pull for one hour, some light kicking
- Some light weight training, like arm weights
Swimming has been great to keep myself motivated and actually get a challenging workout. Just don’t start kicking too early!
Activities that still give me pain:
- Overusing my hip flexor
- Too much resistance on bike (be careful!)
- Bending down to pick something up sometimes
- Laying on my left hip (surgery side) sometimes
- Pulling my knee all the way into my chest
- Extending the leg a lot (when walking or stretching)
I take naproxen or tylenol as needed when there is pain (usually hip flexor pain).
Things that need improvement:
- Left glute is still weak
- Left hip flexor is very weak and often sore
- Leg muscles are tight from compensating
Tips for recovery:
- Don’t overuse your hip flexor!! It will lead to greater inflammation and slower recovery. Think baby steps each day.
- Pull, pull, pull! This is something you can do, and will help keep you motivated and active.
- Do your physical therapy almost every day. Yes, they are SO boring. But if you do them every day with a rest day here or there, recovery will be faster.
- Stay positive!
- Spin high cadence, low resistance as much as you can tolerate to get the cycling muscles active again
I hope to be able to improve my flexibility and strength a lot in the next month. The exercises are getting easier, however, I still have a fair amount of trouble with my hip flexor. It is easily aggravated and causes pain when lifting the leg sometimes. Hopefully this will improve soon. Using the elliptical was great for mobility and helped me loosen up a lot. Swimming is also great, as long as flip turns are modified (or eliminated). I hope to increase my swimming volume in the next couple weeks and add some alternating freestyle. I also hope to be able to add resistance on the bike in the next couple weeks.
All in all, it is slow and steady progress.