When I was at the Ride of Silence the other day, a friend joked that watching my recovery from afar was like watching a roller coaster from the ground. At one moment I’m up, and the next moment I’m back down. That analogy was appropriate, and would come back up again. The image above (used with permission from Adam at The Sports Physio) sums it up perfectly. We expect everything to go as smoothly and perfectly as possible, but in reality, the process can be chaotic.
After the recent setback, I had my orthopedic appointment bumped up just to play it safe. As always, he gave me some terrific advice. I cannot say enough about how much I lucked out getting Dr. Guy as a doctor.
First was the issue of the setback. We went into detail about what happened in physical therapy, and he said that absolutely shouldn’t have happened. My injury is a lot different from what therapists usually see with hips, and it has to be treated differently. Usually running in water would not be so harmful, but when I told him the low water level, he rolled his eyes. When I told him about using the recumbent step machine rather than an stationary bike, he practically gasped. Those are impact exercises. I’m not ready for those now, and there’s really no timetable for when I will be. I’ve heard as early as 6-9 months from surgery, and as late as a year. Aside from casual walking, there shouldn’t be the slightest bit of impact exercise at 16 weeks.
He also likened this experience to a roller coaster. He frankly reminded me of how he surgically went into my hip and tore into my bones and cartilage. As he put it, he made big holes so that they could fill in and heal correctly down the road. Every time I do some exercise, smaller wounds are created and they need to heal during recovery. Light exercises like swimming and spinning a bike in a low gear will do slight damage to my hip. Impact exercises will do a lot more damage, and that takes longer to recover from. That’s exactly what happened with the setback.
That’s where the roller coaster comes back. When you do a little damage each time, the hip’s condition will drop slightly after each workout, and eventually after recovery it will continue upward. The trend line will resemble the left side of the image above. If you do too much at once, the condition will plummet like a roller coaster and have to slowly climb a longer ways back.
The goal is to progress slowly and steadily. As I exercise and do a little damage, it’ll heal and the next time I can do a little more. I can swim 5 laps the first time, and then maybe 7 laps the next time. If I keep progressing in a steady direction then I will eventually get to 20 laps without pain. If I go from 5 laps to 20 laps, then I my body will take longer to recover and I’ll need rest. Without that continual progression, the recovery will take longer and the body will need more rest. That’s exactly what happened after the run and step machine. I’m now where I was shortly after I first started walking.
The doctor said that I should absolutely do no running or any impact exercises. He wants me to do a lot more swimming, which is the least impact I can put on my body right now. The next best thing is cycling. I can ride in little gears, but nothing aggressive. I’ll start with a few laps and miles, and inch my way forward. One day I’ll be recovered and can give some impact a try, but that is far from here.
I know that I have a history of being naive optimist with this injury, but after seeing the doctor, I’ve never been more confident that the trend line will continue to progress forward as it should, and not be a jumbled mess like the right hand column of the image above.
There is good news this week. It took me about three days to be pain free after the step machine. I felt no pain when riding, and no pain the day afterward. As long as I’m smart, I won’t need to cause unnecessary suffering and setbacks.