Back when I first began ballet, I hurt my hip by seeing how high I could lift my leg. I had the flexibility for it but clearly not the strength. For the next few days I was limping, but I brushed it off as the pain eventually died down. Around this time, I began experiencing symptoms of fibromyalgia, which took half a year to get diagnosed; thus, whenever my hip flared up I mistook it as a symptom of fibromyalgia. After all, it was doing otherwise fine, and I was back to performing ballet to the fullest extent I could.
However, the flares could sometimes be so bad that I would have to let my boss know I had to sit at work and sometimes I would have to use a cane.
Flash forward a few years later and a newer, more intense ballet school, and I began to realize my hip problem was entirely separate from my fibromyalgia. I took physical therapy and wasn't really given a diagnosis. It helped, although it didn't get rid of the tightness I still experienced; however, I just accepted that the tightness would always be there.
Flash forward another year, a new job, a new fitness routine that incorporated squats and deadlifts, and my hip was back to bothering me again. Time to visit a sports medicine doctor, who sent me to a physical therapist that actually specialized in the hip. The diagnosis? A hip impingement. The prognosis? Fair.
Physical therapy worked much better this time around, as my therapist figured out exactly what was going on, which muscles were misbehaving, and helped me discover the power of self-myofascial release. While my hip is much much better now (no tightness, no more pain when I stand for long periods of time or even sit or do anything, for that matter), the joint is still jammed, so all I can do is avoid what aggravates it to begin with.
Fine by me.
Throughout physical therapy, she was temporarily able to set the joint back in place, but because I've had the injury for a few years, it's not like that was a permanent fix. It crept right back, sitting too deeply in my hip socket. She did tell me it was going to be difficult to fix, and that it would probably never be the same again, but she could help me get rid of most of the pain.
Again, fine by me. I'm mostly pain free now, though I still have to do self-myofascial release on occasion when I feel it acting up. What's primarily aggravating now is how limited I am on leg day and the perception people have about personal trainers and injuries. Even other personal trainers are convinced we should be able to fix our own injuries with no problems. And the public's perception is that an injured trainer should still be able to function just fine with little limitations.
That's not the case at all.
Leg day looks like physical therapy. I do squats with a stability ball to keep my hips from shifting, as having a jammed socket naturally puts my hips out of alignment. I do wall sits so that way there is no pressure put on my hips or back, and it goes where I want it to, which is my quads. I have to use the leg curl machine to work out the hamstrings. I can do stiff-legged deadlifts, but I have to keep the weight very light. Any heavier than 75 pounds, and my hip starts to throw a fit. And, unfortunately, I can't really do any isolation exercises with my glutes. Doing any kind of hip extension motion puts my joint in an even more compromised position, and thus it just aggravates my low back. So I do clamshells, as hip abduction and adduction are not bothersome movements. But this is a workout that works for me, that leaves me in no pain the next day.
Of course, oddly enough, I can do Olympic lifts with no problems, so there's at least that.
Leg day is not impressive at all, and it's almost like the public expects personal trainers to put on a performance every time they're in the gym. Sorry, but heavy deadlifts and squats do not exist in my repertoire. I can't even do hip thrusts with a barbell because the weight puts a lot of pressure on an already compromised joint.
It's annoying, but what's even more annoying is well-meaning advice from people who have no clue what they're talking about--either those who have zero background in exercise science or from trainers with little background themselves and a cheap certificate they bought online.
No, sorry, I can't lift 150 pounds without completely destroying my hip. And, no, doing squats with an unloaded barbell is not going to help me with that. To be able to lift heavy, I actually have to lift heavier than 45 lbs., and that is not in the cards. And stop trying to relate to me because you, too, have some sort of injury, and you're still able to workout just as hard. Great for you. Either you're pushing yourself through the pain, in which case you're absolutely insane, or your injury is incomparable to mine because it's different and doesn't have the limitations mine does.
My physical therapist would 100% agree with what I'm doing on leg day and would totally discourage heavy squats and deadlifts and really anything that aggravates it. I'm not about to let my occupation destroy my hip to the point where surgery would absolutely be unavoidable in the future. And I'm not about to let well-meaning people convince me that being a personal trainer means I should be able to figure out how to fix my own issues.
It took me more than half a year to finally discover a routine that doesn't make me spend the rest of the night rolling out my hip because I thought the gains were worth more than the pain. (Hint: they're not.) If I had listened to anyone but my physical therapist, I would not have found that routine and would likely still be stuck in physical therapy.
Sure, this may mean I'll never have bodybuilder quads or have clients begging me to train them because they see I can squat a lot more than 100 lbs. I also have to be careful how I demonstrate certain exercises to my clients.
Despite these annoyances, this injury has allowed me to relate to my clients, many of whom have chronic injuries themselves and are thrilled that someone can empathize with them and thus can create effective programs that do not exacerbate their conditions but can in fact help them.
It's also inspired me to study corrective exercise and eventually return to school to become a physical therapy assistant.
So I suppose I have a hip impingement for a reason.
ACE Certified Personal Trainer, NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, nutrition coach, young adult author, moody ballerina.
I help people perform without pain.
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The views expressed on this blog are entirely my own. Any advice I offer is not to be taken as medical advice. If you think you have contraindications to exercise, please see your physician before implementing any sample workout plans I present on this blog.
All images are either my own, from Canva, or Creative Commons