Wow! This next hippie has shared an amazing story. In fact, her outlook and her perceptions share the same DNA as mine. It is actually quite incredible since I have never met Christina Fair. But, let me introduce you to her. She is a hippie and a fitness coach. She was a middle school teacher for many years and ended her classroom journey to pursue fitness coaching.
Christina was excited to share her hip story with me, but in reading her story, I could tell that she really is most excited about sharing her philosophy about recovery and the power of the messaging that we give ourselves.
Christina’s first bout with hip challenges dates all the way back to 2014 when she was a senior in high school and getting ready for her district championships for track. She shared that when she was practicing for an upcoming competition, it felt like her “right hip tore in the middle.” Unfortunately, back in 2014, there were still many doctors who were not familiar with labral tears, and she was given an incorrect diagnosis of hip flexor tendonitis. She was told to rest and to do banded clams. Her doctor expected, at that point, for everything to be fine, but it never was. Those banded clams did not end up with a pearl!
Just like many of us, she followed the directions. Her hip still felt horrible. Even through the pain and a limp, Christina was able to build enough strength so she could continue running.
And bad things happen to good people, right? In 2016, she started weightlifting after an ankle sprain. Christina uses physical activity, just like I do, “to help cope with the stresses of life.” In addition to her ankle sprain, Christina still had an excruciating pain while squatting and “any other movement with deep hip flexion and rotation”. She constantly felt a pinching sensation in her hip and, sometimes even low back pain. But you know what? Being still and exercising within a very limited range was extremely boring for Christina. Christina thought if she practiced more advanced exercises, her body would listen. She had hoped her “hip would get used to squatting with time.” It didn’t! She began limping again, “wincing with every row and lunge and squat and avoiding really any movement of [her] hip.” If she moved the wrong way, the knife of pain would just cut through her being.
Her first hip scope was completed in June of 2019 on her right hip. She started PT and she did not like what her PT was messaging to her. “You have had this issue for so long, so there is a lot of damage to undo.” You would think this statement sounds pretty harmless, but there is something to be said for the intuition that Christina had. She felt like something was still wrong. She was given more clamshells. And then more. There was still no pearl in those clams, let me tell you. In fact, the salt poured into her wound was poured innocently enough (I have to assume) by her PT. He made a statement (accompanied by laughter) as she complained about the pain of internal rotation. “Then don’t move it that way.” She was probably more gracious than I would have been. (Think middle finger).
Christina continued pressing on “after almost crying in front of [her] surgeon about how bad it still hurt.” She felt worse and another MRA showed another tear. At that time, [her] surgeon exclaimed how rare revisional procedures were, but [she] just accepted [her] body [had] healed too aggressively, and this round would surely do the trick.” One of the complicating factors for her was that the surgeon had intentionally left the capsule open.
Side note: The “capsule” is the strongest ligament in the human body and is otherwise
known as the iliofemoral ligament. It provides stability to the hip joint, and it had been
standard practice by many surgeons to cut through this ligament and not sew it up resulting
in instability and retears. Make sure to ask your surgeon regarding his/her philosophy on
Christina had her revision in June of 2020 and because of the incredible amount of scar tissue in her joint, her labrum had retorn. And, here, is where I find another strand of similar DNA with Christina's feelings. She “was actually thrilled—[her] pain wasn’t in [her] head.” I have felt that so many times – too many times to count.
Christina’s hip journey however had continued and had included more than “87 physical therapy visits in a year, two surgeries to boot, and a knife-like pain in [her] hip still knocking on [her] door.” She still has to very carefully manage her squatting form so as to avoid that all too familiar groin pain. Christina is able to walk without a limp, but is still nowhere near where she expected to be.
Most hippies appreciate seeing how their experiences stack up with others. I asked Christina what her biggest challenge through this journey has been. She has goals that she does not feel like she will ever achieve. She would love to powerlift and sumo deadlift, but she gets it. It is not what her body needs.
Through her struggles she has had to “learn that life keeps moving forward.” Getting through that challenge put her in a place where she could honor setting realistic goals even though it continues to be hard for her. One of the things that I most appreciated hearing from Christina was that “managing expectations can be humbling.” Damn, this whole journey is humbling and being humble is hard work. I struggle with that too! Every day!
Another “major mental hurdle was not quitting every time [she] felt a pinch. Her physical therapist had to sit [her] down and tell [her] it was okay to feel a pinch because it was just feedback that [her body] needed to tweak [her] form a bit. To this day, [she] reassures [herself] that discomfort is a just a sign, not a death sentence.”
And, yes, there are struggles in this hip journey. But with every struggle, there is a success. Some are bigger than others, but they are there!
When asked about how Christina viewed her successes, this is what she said,
“My biggest success is being able to identify the truth vs. the lie when it comes to my health. Our brains naturally cling to the negative, so they like to worry and distort our reality. For the longest time, I would barely move my right hip, afraid I would hurt it, and I had to talk myself through my fear. Physically, I was capable of being active, but I had to mentally accept that too.
Here is the truth: My hip is designed to move in every way. There are a lot of
movements I can do pain-free.
Here is the lie: Any pinching or discomfort is a signal to stop moving completely.
Interestingly enough, the less I moved, the more it would hurt, so it solidified my
confidence in my ability to discern what was true and what was fear-based.
Finally, I am proud of the time I have put in to understanding how my body moves and
therefore, how all bodies move. I’ve spent years figuring out how my body squats and
bends, years learning how to control my pain and say 'no' to the fear. That process has
been beyond empowering.”
While examining her own psychology, Christina truly understands the importance of psychology and recovery for all. “Psychology is everything! Studies have shown that athletes who are scared and expecting a re-tear of their ACL actually have a greater change of experiencing another tear. Gratitude and identifying the truth vs. the lie are [her] primary tools [she uses]. These are both used in cognitive behavior therapy. Athletes are prone to mental illness when their way of life suddenly changes, like in the face of an injury. It is critical to continue those mindset practices during any recovery period because that is often much worse than any surgery. Mindset is the difference between quitting and persevering.”
This Hopeful Hippie is sure that you have heard the phrase, “Teamwork makes the dream work.” Christina’s number one piece of advice (and mine) is to “find a team of supportive therapists, providers, friends, and family who respect you, your feelings, and your reactions to treatment. Inform your friends and family how much your hip pain is impacting you and how necessary the surgery is for your quality of life if you go the surgery route.”
Christina also identified a strength zapper. As she continued to have pain, her family and friends just told her to stop being active. That one really gets me too! Motion is lotion. Follow your team’s recommendations for success and ignore the naysayers is what I say.
Focus on the positive messaging. When you are in the middle of that book called Your Hip Journey, focus on “the effectiveness of gratitude and discerning the truth from the lie. Both are critical to recovery. The recovery process from any hip surgery is grueling to say the least.
One strategy [Christina] recommends is identifying the truth vs. the lie, and then right after, listing three things [you] are grateful about that truth.” Christina acknowledges that this takes practice, but here is an example of a lie that she “wrestles with almost daily.”
The lie: I wasted so many years with surgeries, and I am still not better.
The truth: While I’m disappointed with the outcome, I learned so much about anatomy,
human movement, and human psychology, and the experience inspired me to become
a coach who can help people with hip issues like me. I wouldn’t be here today without
the surgeries, the rehab, and the disappointments.
Then [she] takes that truth and [lists] three related things [she is] grateful for.
1. The ability to move every day.
2. The time to learn how to squat pain-free and teach others how to achieve that.
3. The opportunity to share my experiences with others.
She also knows that this practice buys her peace which, in turn, allows healing and the formation of a pearl. Whether it is a pearl of wisdom or a pearl of empowerment, it does not matter. Where there is a pearl, there is peace.
In her current career as a fitness coach, Christina helps others find that peace. She uses her experiences as a patient to apply to her interactions with her clients. She wants to always treat people with “sincere empathy and respect.” She wants them to know she has been down this road and understands the physical and emotional stress of recovery. Her most important message which again shows our similar DNA is that you are not the sum of your hips!
This is what Christina says, “From a patient’s perspective, I would argue the most important thing for anyone to learn is to see yourself as a person, not a symptom. Rehab after hip surgery may seem all-consuming, but life is still going on, so enjoy that ice cream, hold your significant other’s hand. Do things to make you remember that you are not your symptom.”
Christina’s faith has also been instrumental in the idea of finding peace through struggle. She wants to remind you all to “run with perseverance the race marked out for [you]” Hebrews 12:1. Christina, as a runner, loves this! “Keep going with the knowledge there is a plan. [There are many doors closing] and yet so many unexpected ones opening.”
And with this thinking, Christina also believes, with me, in the importance of mindfulness. Did I say duplicate DNA? Christina says that mindfulness ‘is critical! Especially when things don’t go your way. [She] had to make a choice: continue to let [her] hip control [her] life, or move on and acknowledge that while this wasn’t what [she] was expecting, [she] can move, [she] can breathe, and [she] can be active. Mindfulness pushed [Christina] to accept [her] circumstances and limitations but encouraged [her] to look for ways to work around them.”
Being able to identify the truth and the lie can became a pillar of how you interact with your flawed body. “It helped Christina stay extra focused on what movement hurt and what felt good. It gave [her] permission to pause and reflect: what about this movement is painful and what feels good? It pushed [her] forward mentally so [she] saw the need to stay active instead of giving up.”
Christina would like you to hear this restated message, “Our brains have a tendency of ruminating on the bad things in life.” Focus on the positive. Allow your struggles to be the irritant that forms a pearl. Find your truth. Ignore your lies. Search for hope and find it. Through pain, through frustration, through defeat. It is there. This is something that I know Christina knows. It is something that I know. The goal is for you to know this! Find your pearl!