Thinking about surgery for hip impingement? Years ago, I met online with a young attorney named Maks in New York City who was afraid he needed to get hip surgery. He had lost the ability to play basketball. His doctors were sure he needed surgery to fix his hips. He was told he had femoroacetabular impingement, and the only solution for it was surgery.
It is now 4 years on, and this is Part 1 of Maks' story...
It was the fall of 2014 and I had just stepped out of yet another appointment with my highly-respected Manhattan orthopedic surgeon. Unlike prior appointments, though, I pulled the trigger and scheduled surgery to finally cure my hip pain once and for all.
I’d already gotten three separate MRIs confirming a labral tear. I had also received a cortisone shot in my hip socket, which apparently further proved that surgery was the appropriate next step. The above images are the actual MRI results from 2014. I was nervous but excited to finally cure my Femoral Acetabular Impingement (FAI) since it had been holding me back for years.
About a week later, I was in my office and on hour five of a nine-hour sitting-all-day work session. My hip wasn’t bothering me that much, but I continuously stretched and rotated my leg to ensure the FAI was “still there.”
I went back and forth in my mind, trying to forcefully convince myself that my scheduled hip arthroscopic surgery in two days was a sound decision. But something in my gut kept pulling at me and sending me signals that something was not right.
I’ve lived long enough to know that this type of instinct can never be ignored.
I moved my current task to the side and began obsessively searching Google for some hidden information on FAI that I may not have come across yet. I went to the second and third pages in the Google search, searched news and videos, scoured through social media, and even went on Craigslist to try to find something. Anything.
Then, I arrived on YouTube and quickly realized I’d reached my destination. I stumbled on Matt Hsu’s Upright Health channel and watched his video, “I don’t buy FAI.” In the video, Matt talked about his own experience with FAI and why he wouldn't consider surgery.
He was a living example of someone who got out of hip pain by utilizing an alternative holistic strategy.
This was a life-changing moment for me, and I am forever grateful to Matt and his team at Upright Health for not only helping me get out of hip pain but for also giving me the skills and mindset to question any advice given by my surgeon.
I watched the video multiple times, and then something clicked in my brain and I knew surgery wasn’t for me.
With only two days left before the procedure, I called one of the finest hospitals in the country and cancelled my surgery. What happened next was completely unpredictable...
Not only did I begin properly restoring my hip health, but I also began to understand functional movement and health to a degree I never anticipated before. I also realized that doctors are not responsible for your health—you are!
Humans have been around for quite some time and most of our problems, including hip pain, have been figured out by someone at some point—you just have to do some digging.
What’s important to realize is that there is no “magic pill.” Hip pain (and most other chronic joint pain) is almost always the result of years of improper movement patterns.
After reflecting on my experience, I would say there are two main reasons why I decided not to get surgery.
One of the first things Matt at Upright Health had me do during our first session was get in a position where I felt hip pain. Then, he asked me to “flex” my glute muscle while in that position. It was remarkable—when I contracted my glutes in that position, I no longer experienced the pain.
This alone was eye-opening to me, and it made me wonder, what if my glutes were stronger? What if it was possible to reverse years of atrophy that my glutes suffered from sitting at a desk every day? If my glutes were more functional, would I experience less pain in other, more natural positions as well?
These questions were enough for me to cancel my surgery and explore an alternative method to treating my hip pain. If I really thought about it, I never really worked on strengthening my glutes.
As I started to experiment with different stretches and muscle contractions, I noticed even more pain relief. I knew that I was onto something.
Another important factor that contributed to my decision to cancel surgery was the humbling realization that all my functional movements were severely dysfunctional.
I could not squat even close to parallel without lifting my heels off the ground—in fact, I never knew what a real squat was even supposed to look like. I couldn’t perform a hip hinge without severely rounding my back, and I had barely any range of motion in my hamstrings, adductors, hip flexors, and many other muscles.
My first instinct was to brush this all off and blame these movement deficiencies on the FAI diagnosis.
But I had to be honest with myself. Did I ever learn to squat properly, or did I just keep believing what I learned from a senior on my high school basketball team? Did I ever truly think what eight to nine hours of sitting at a desk can do to my body? Did I ever really try to stretch extremely tight muscles and strengthen weak muscles? Or did I just go to the gym, hit the bench press, and do some bicep curls?
I took pride in my health and conditioning so it was not easy to admit how dysfunctional my body was. But it was, and it was time to get to work.
It is common to assume that an orthopedic surgeon will “cure” your hip. However, these specialists only have five to ten minutes to spend with you every month or so.
Within that time frame, it’s impossible for them to go over all the possible factors contributing to the pain you’re experiencing. Instead, they’ll give you some painkillers, shoot you up with some cortisone—or even worse, cut you open!
With a little guidance from an experienced coach, I have no doubt that you can alleviate your hip pain like I did.
Be patient. Take your time. And learn how to work with your body!