• Michelle Howell

On the road to recovery

Over the past week, I've had a lot to process, some good, some bad, some I'm still unsure which category it falls into.

I went for what would be my last "run" ("run" because it was 2 minutes of a limp followed by four minutes of what felt semi-normal, but probably looked like the end of an ultra marathon) on May 11th. It was supposed to be a test run to see how my hip was feeling after taking a full down week before my doctor's appointment that morning.

Even though the run wasn't a good run necessarily, it was a huge improvement from the week prior when it was too painful to even get past the hobble phase after trying unsuccessfully for half a mile. Over the past month two months now I've been dealing with on and off pain and discomfort in my right hip flexor, groin, and low back. It's moved around, had its good days and bad days, but hasn't completely subsided even with time off and substituting in cross-training. Initially, I thought it was just tightness and alignment issues maybe some tendonitis going on which my physical therapist and chiropractor agreed with since the pain and discomfort would go away after warming up and I was able to do full workouts. Eventually, though with the therapy not seeming to help and the pain continuing to worsen to the point that it wasn't going away once warmed up we decided full rest was best.

So I took being able to at least run with the discomfort going away toward the end but feeling like my gait was really rough as a good sign. Progress at least from before. My doctor thought otherwise since even though I was getting back to where I was in the earlier weeks I was still unable to run pain. I left the office with a script for an MRI and by 5:00 pm May 11th I finally had partial answers to what was going on.

My least favorite part about reading an MRI or any medical report is that it feels like they always save the worst for last. After reading two small paragraphs filled with "unremarkable" findings I was almost feeling at ease until the last line. Tendonosis in my glute medius and minimus, a small adnexal cyst, and the cherry on top acetabular labral tears. Cyst? I've had a history of them, no biggie. Tendonosis? After some quick googling it sounds not great-deterioration of the tendon due to repetitive trauma- but maybe fixable semi easily? Labral tear? That sounds bad.

As it turns out I was right about the tear being bad after going to see an Orthopedic specialist later that week. While some people can have tears and not experience any symptoms, they can also be season-ending injuries and often require more than just rest and time off to fix. As it also turns out I've probably been dealing with this tear as far back as late February (and that's why you keep a training log) according to the signs and symptoms associated with them. Things looked as though they'd been snowballing for some time.

By the end of the appointment I was given three options in terms of addressing the tear:

  • Surgery

  • Stem cells

  • Plasma Rich Proteins

Even though this track season is a wash, next season is just around the corner so surgery with an expected return to high-intensity training of nine months as well as being is the most invasive of the options was quickly eliminated from the options.

Stem cells offered similar results to Plasma Rich Proteins, but the harvesting of the stem cells is also much more invasive than the plasma, both treat the labral tear as well as being able to address the issues in my glute tendons, which we also found occurring in my adductor and the SI sprain also uncovered during the course of my appointment (seriously universe throw something else at me).

Talking with my Orthopedic we decided upon starting with PRP, the least invasive with a 90% success rate in treating the tear and a 100% rate of the other problems. Six weeks after the PRP treatment will be a follow up to determine how well my tear is responding to it.

It was a relief to finally find out what was wrong and the options to treat it, but in the days leading up to my PRP treatment, I was definitely still unsure if I'd made the right decision and upset at the prospect of being unable to do any physical activity for two weeks following the procedure.

On my PRP injection day, I left feeling like I'd just left a very intense dry needling session- very sore, with bruises around all the injection sites. On arrival they drew my blood which they then centrifuged to create the platelet-rich plasma. After getting some local anesthesia the operation itself only took about a half-hour. I was able to watch the whole time on a monitor as the Ortho injected into all the affected areas.

The only thing I can equate the procedure to was acupuncture or dry needling which makes sense because it is just a needle being maneuvered around, even with the local anesthesia there were a couple of spots that were that same intense popping sensation you get when a needle hits a trigger point.

Leaving the office the initial soreness felt pretty much the same as needling, but it stayed around much longer. While I left without needing to use crutches, walking around for the next 48 hours was not recommended. The soreness hung around and everything got very stiff within the first-hour post-treatment. I spent the rest of the operation day laying on my back, taking pain medication, napping, and splurging on some chipotle delivery.

Even though there are no real physical signs from PRP the pain and soreness from the injections stayed around pretty intensely for the first three days post-procedure. Four days out I'm finally feeling semi-normal. The injection site bruises are going away, touching the afflicted areas doesn't produce a knee jerk reaction, and the stiffness is starting to subside. Sitting or standing for a prolonged time is still hard so I'm laying on my back a lot, but that's just part of the plasma doing its work. Being stuck inside isn't ideal. I miss being active, but on the flip side with the DMV area still quarantining there's no fomo.

Three to four months of recovery feels like a long time, but I'm thankful that it's happening now because as everyone has reassured me over the past week now really is the best time for something like this to have happened.

Hopefully, come September I'll be back running circles counterclockwise until then I'll be counting the days... literally.

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