Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Four Months Post-Op

In my last entry six weeks ago, I was just starting to walk again; now I am getting close to 100% with walking. Right now, I'd say I'm at 80% of my pre-dysplasia-pain ability to walk, and probably 100% of my ability to walk just prior to surgery.

As I wrote six weeks ago, at first even going on a half mile walk was exhausting. My leg muscles were in various states of soreness for several weeks, and my cardiovascular endurance needed work after two and a half months of limited activity.

My gait stabilized soon after I began walking. Once I got steady on my feet, I tried to increase my walking bit by bit -- at first just starting with the basic walk to and from the subway on the way to work (a few blocks each way), then little lunch-hour walks that I stretched longer and longer.

Eventually I was able to walk from my apartment in the Financial District across the Brooklyn Bridge to DUMBO, one of my favorite walks and one I was very glad to get back to! My longest walk so far has been a five-mile walk through London the weekend before last -- but I did pay for that with exhaustion and soreness for the rest of the day afterwards, so I haven't repeated the feat since.

I have had pain as I've been increasing my walking. It is hard to explain -- a lot of the time it is clearly muscle pain -- in the quads, glutes, calves, hip muscles -- but once or twice it has felt disturbingly like the old pain: twinges when my hip hit a certain way; that old "blister" feeling. The twinging/shooting only happens when I am *really* spent, like after that 5 mile walk for example. In London, my hip felt great during the whole walk (I would have stopped immediately had it started hurting), but after I came home and had rested on the couch for a while, I got up and felt really stiff with twingy pain in the operated hip on each step. I don't know what that means.

At times I admit I've been concerned that the surgery "didn't work" and the pain was the same old pain I had pre-surgery. But unlike the pre-surgery pain, the twingy pain I have now goes away quickly. The old pain would linger for several days until I'd stayed off my hip long enough for it to fade away.

Other times when my hip has been tired I've sometimes felt an ache, sometimes with the ache reaching down in a stripe down the outside front of my thigh. Of course that stripe could be some inner quad muscle complaining. In fact, I am not sure that the twingy pain isn't muscle related, too. I just don't know. But no matter what the pain, it has usually not lasted more than a few hours and it has always been gone the next morning. I figure it is just all part of building up the strength and endurance of my hip, and to stick with the rule to ease up if it hurts.

Jaime (physical therapist) did give me some exercises and stretches during my May visit, which I was to do daily. I tried to do them every morning and evening but I definitely did not do them that often. The stretching was, and still is, the worst -- my hamstrings were tight anyway before the surgery and now they are just ridiculously tight. It is hard to tell if there is even any progress with the stretching, but I suppose it is good for me no matter what.

I have also ridden the exercise bike sometimes during the past weeks. I haven't swum and I haven't done any anaerobic exercise, but that is just because I am lazy. I have resolved to remedy those deficits in the coming weeks.

As it stands now, I am back to being able to get around in the city at least as well as I did just prior to surgery. I can walk to subways, around the office at work, to errands at lunch hour, in parks on weekends, etc., all without pain (for the most part). I can walk briskly and bustle up and down stairs at typical New York pace. The last couple of nagging range-of-motion problems (not being able to really bend freely over my operated leg to put on a sock, for example) have finally fallen away.

I still have the numb spot on the outside of my thigh, but it comes and goes. Sometimes it feels like it is almost totally gone and then sometimes it comes back a little bit. I guess it is possible there will be some sort of strangeness there for the rest of my life, but no matter; I rarely notice it and am never bothered by it when I do.

I went up to Boston yesterday to see Dr. Millis and the team. (My last visit was back in May, right before my last entry in here.) I got x-rays that looked (to me) exactly like the x-rays from six weeks ago. Screws straight, cracks filled in, etc. Dr. Millis was pleased with my gait, flexion and strength and all seems to be improving according to plan. Weakest links are the right hip flexor and hip abductor muscles. (They probably would have been stronger if I'd been more religious with my PT exercises, hmm?)

I asked Dr. Millis and Jessica (physical therapist) about adding back some activities. Sadly I'm not allowed to start up tennis again, but I'm now allowed to hit against a wall or against a ball machine, so that's a start. Jessica said I needed a month or so before I could start adding any impact on my hip, so "real" tennis is still on hold.

No horseback riding still because it is "too jarring." (I'm surprised they didn't also say "and you could fall off!")

Thankfully I am allowed to start back up with a personal trainer again, so that should help with my motivation to get back in the weight room. I've already set up my first session for this Friday.

Another bit of good news is that I don't have to go back up to Boston until my LPAO pre-op appointment in October! I will communicate with the physical therapists and Dr. Millis via email to give updates on how I'm doing, but basically I'm free to enjoy my summer and fall.

Speaking of LPAO, my left hip is still pain-free despite the increased activity. I haven't had even a twinge from it even during the longer walks. That doesn't affect my decision to put it on the chopping block in November, but it is definitely good news for the enjoyment of my summer.