Updated: Jul 7, 2021
(This blog is written by Caroline Gourri from New York and tells her story of hip impingement, surgery, recovery and her running success).
It’s been a long and challenging road, starting almost 3 years ago when I fell while running, three weeks before a marathon in May 2016.
After the fall I spent a week icing and hoping, but the pain didn’t subside. I rested and then ‘ran’ the marathon on June 12th - it was the slowest and most painful thing I’ve ever done.
I tried to rest and recuperate but after a couple of months I went to see a (fantastic) physiotherapist who started to work with me. After I was unable to make much progress, my physio recommended I see a specialist. I had a scan of my pelvis and, in early September, I was diagnosed with a stress fracture in my lower pelvis and subsequently spent 6 weeks on crutches, unable to bear any weight on my right leg. I returned to my physiotherapist and we began to work on my recovery, but again, I could only improve to a certain point and the pain continued.
In late November 2016, I had a second MRI of my right hip, which showed I had FAI (femoroacetabular impingement) -cam type for all you hippies- some cysts at the head of the femur, and some damage to my labrum (the seal of the hip). I spent a lot of time working with my physiotherapist after the diagnosis to see how much progress I could make without surgery, but ultimately felt the problem would only get worse without it. After meeting with a couple of surgeons, I decided that Dr. Buly was the surgeon for me and on June 29th 2017, I had my operation.
In the period in between the diagnosis and surgery I worked hard to ‘prehab’ with my physiotherapist in order to get myself in the best physical health I could before the surgery.
I was terrified at the thought of an operation, having never been under any sort of anesthetic before, but I knew I had to do it.
On the day of the surgery my sister tried to keep me relaxed and calm with lots of jokes, while my husband was concerned and protective and made sure I was looked after in every way possible. My mother was on dog sitting duties at home.
First surgery of the day meant I was done and on my way home by early afternoon and after a horrendous two hour ride in an Uber (Thank you, NY traffic), I was home. That evening I went to the gym in my building to get on the stationary bike (as advised by my surgeon). I spent 10 minutes on the bike and managed three revolutions of the pedals. Recovery had begun!
I had three weeks off work and then spent three weeks working from home to avoid the NY commute for as long as possible. The first week was the worst. I had strong painkillers, but they made me feel terrible. I broke down and cried in the bathroom with my sister two days after surgery and then decided I’d live without pain medication from that point on. I started ‘rehab’ with my physio as soon as I was able to make the journey to her office and that’s when the work really began! I’m not a patient person but I religiously did all the work she asked of me and also tried not to push too quickly (who says I’m impatient?).
When we started, I pretty much scored a 1/5 in all my strength tests for the hip and surrounding area. We slowly and patiently built my strength and six weeks later I had a follow up with Dr Buly. The Dr. was pleased with his handiwork and my progress and when I asked him if I could attempt the ‘Swim Serpentine’ in September (a two-mile open water swim in Hyde Park) he said “go for it!” (much to my husband’s displeasure - only because he worries about me).
Because I had a terrible allergic reaction to the surgical glue they used to seal the incisions, it took a while for me to be allowed in the pool, but from late July I started ‘swimming’. In the early days, all I was only allowed to walk in the water but it felt good to have a purpose and for about two minutes after I got out of the pool, the feeling in my hip was magic as it would feel light and painless for a few brief moments.
Fast forward to the Swim Serpentine. I’m not a great swimmer, but I completed the swim much to mine (and everyone else’s) surprise! The swim was a good delaying tactic for me, too, as it meant I focused on that rather than pushing to try and run too soon. Post swim I started to run on the treadmill, initially only allowed to run for 5 minutes and at a maximum speed of 6mph. Slowly, slowly I built up the distance on the treadmill.
Nine months after surgery, I signed up to do a half marathon, in March 2018, with a friend. It was a great goal to aim for and being able to chat with my friend in the run up to the event was really helpful for me as I was massively nervous. It was a long and cold winter in NY so I avoided running outside as I was worried about slipping or falling, but as the half was approaching I got more worried about my ‘mental block" to run outside. My husband basically telling me to stop being so silly and get on with it. I started to run outdoors. Initially, it felt so weird and my legs didn’t even feel like they were properly attached, but with a bit of practice it became more natural and now, I’m back to finding it a struggle to get on the treadmill as I’d rather be outdoors.
On the 17th of June 2018, I ran my second half marathon and surprised myself with my pace. I’ve worked really hard with my physiotherapist (did 60 hours with her last year!) and continue to see her regularly. From injury, to surgery, to rehab, I have run the Berlin Marathon last September and had a personal best and the NY Marathon last November. My goal is to run the Berlin Marathon again this year.
I know this has been a ridiculously long post and many of you won’t make it to the end, but "thanks" if you did. It’s been quite cathartic for me to recall the whole sorry saga! I hope my story provides a source of inspiration for your journey!