The beginning of my journey…

December 22, 2014 by Summer

When I started this journey, I found that there was alarmingly little information available and could find only one reference to a rider that had experienced the same injury. I was very disappointed and extremely lost. So, I thought “Maybe I can blog about my experience and help someone like me!”

In November of 2013, I was riding in a clinic with a coach I only get to see about every 6-8 weeks. I always push myself really hard and WELL out of my comfort zone when I ride with this coach and consequently learn huge amounts in very short periods of time. This coach was complaining about the lack of flexibility in my right hip compared to my left. Me being me, I decided I was going to fix it!

After the ride I was quite sore but chalked it up to sitting in a different position and probably having used muscles I hadn’t used in a long time (if ever!). I carried on like this for months, pushing myself to achieve the position my coach had asked for. It would get sore, I would back off. It would feel a bit better, I would push it… until one day I couldn’t even lay down in my bed anymore. I had pain deep in my groin and radiating out all the way around my hip and into my back. I couldn’t lay on my back or on either side. I had to contort myself into this bizarre half-up, half-down circ de soleil like position on our reclining couch, just so I could get some sleep. I also had this bizarre stabbing pains in my stomach (one right above my belly button on the centre line and a couple lower in my abdomen) that I was sure were cancer. I had a colonoscopy and everything! (which came back completely normal, aside from an unrelated hiatal hernia) I was at a loss, so I decided to try a chiropractor thinking I had maybe pinched a nerve.

My chiropractor was amazing! He picked up my leg, moved it maybe twice and said that we needed to get some x-rays. He suggested that he do minimal treatments until we knew for sure what was going on but told me he suspected I had a labral tear and possible FAI (Femoral Acetabular Impingement). If any of you reading this have struggled in getting a diagnosis, you will know how lucky I was to find this chiropractor. Many go for years without knowing what is happening to them. My own doctor admitted that she had never dealt with this injury before. She was incredible as well. She took care of me, helped me find forums online, researched it herself and told me that I should probably not be riding. Both of these professionals were exceptional and I feel incredibly lucky to have had their help and compassion.

Like many of you, I’m sure, I kept riding, started researching and waited to hear back about my x-rays. In the meantime my GP booked an MRI Arthrogram (more on this later…) I heard back about my x-rays and was extremely disappointed to hear that the hospital said they were normal. My chiropractor then took the initiative and sent a copy of my x-rays to a radiologist friend of his who happened to specialize in hips and who also had had a hip injury herself. She read them completely differently from the hospital and said that I had a “Mixed impingement”. Huh??? I later found out that this meant I had a CAM and Pincer impingement. This in layman’s terms means that I had an extra bump of bone on my hip socket and an extra bump of bone on my femur. The problem with an impingement is that when you are a “High-level athlete” (just means you repeat motions that require above average use of hip flexion, often) this impingement can actually crush and tear your labrum as well as cause arthritic changes. The labrum is the ring of cartilage in the hip socket that the femur sits in. It works a little bit like a suction cup as well as a buffer between the femur and the hip socket. When the labrum tears all kinds of things start to go wrong, including severe pain. This is where it gets a little bit tricky… The cartilage of the labrum is full of nerve endings. When it is torn or crushed by the impingement, those nerve endings become exposed, angry and extremely reactive. This causes referred pain. Referred pain is pain that does not exist in exactly the spot the injury occurred (like the pains in my stomach) It can be burning, numbness, stabbing or general discomfort. The issue with this is that it becomes very difficult to pinpoint the source of the pain. This is one of the reasons that people go mis or undiagnosed with hip pain for so long. It doesn’t always present itself in a completely straightforward manner.

So, this is how my journey to recovery began. I will write tomorrow about exactly how my pain presented itself, how I dealt with it and what I did next!