Thursday, January 24, 2013

Labral Hip Tear/FAI Surgery Recovery Checklist

I thought I would compile a list of things I have found helpful during my recovery from arthroscopic hip surgery for labral tear/femoroacetabular impingement. Of course, remember that each surgeon varies on their restrictions and protocols post-op, so be sure to talk to your physical therapist or orthopedic surgeon before buying/using the items I suggest. I have been restricted to crutches  and no flexion of the hip past 90 degrees for the first 4 weeks and no external rotation for the first 6 weeks. I got several ideas from this great blog which highlights another lady's journey with FAI.

Must Haves (in my opinion):

  • Band-Aids, peroxide, alcohol - I had 5 small incisions that had to be cleaned daily for the first 7-10 days with 1/2 peroxide and 1/2 water and then covered with a Band-Aid. I used alcohol wipes to get all the markings from surgery (my surgeon put his initials on my thigh with a sharpie!) and all the adhesive from the bandages.
  • shower chair - I was blessed to borrow this from my grandmother. For those with pelvic floor pain, I sit on a toilet ring vinyl cushion while sitting in the shower. It's one of the many cushions in my stash that haven't helped. It doesn't take a lot of pressure off, but it is better than nothing for me.

  • long handled loofa or sponge -  if you can't flex your hip past 90 degrees, washing your legs/feet will be difficult without this
  • something to tape your razor on to shave your legs (if you are female :)) - You will not be able to bend at the waist to reach and shave your legs. I used clear packing tape to tape my razor to the end of my long handled loofa. I saw somewhere an idea of taping a plastic ruler to the razor. I've had to re-tape only once in almost 4 weeks so far.
  • crutches - Initially I purchased Millennial Crutches, which are supposed to be more ergonomical than the standard crutches as I was concerned about using crutches due to my poor upper body strength and a history of underarm hypersensitivity (cause unknown, but thankfully it isn't a problem as of now). We purchased the millennial crutches from a discount online site and received defective crutches just a couple of days before my surgery, so we took the standard crutches that insurance covers from the surgical center. (I did not care for the spring loaded Millennial Cruthches by the way). I've done fine with the regular crutches though other than getting blisters on my hands. I highly recommend padding. I really like these Crutcheze pads that I ordered (on Clearance!).

  • Water Bottle Holder - It's important to drink A LOT of water while recovering from surgery. And when you are using two crutches it makes carrying anything almost impossible. It's really frustrating to be dependent on others for almost everything. So if you can at least go to the fridge and get yourself a water bottle that helps!  Crutcheze makes a special bag to hold a water bottle and other small items, but my great aunt let me borrow a cheap water bottle holder that clips onto some string my husband put on my crutches. Another option would be a water bottle with a handle on it like this one that you could put your finger through while using the crutches
  • Backpack/backpack purse - As I said you cannot carrying much with two crutches so a backpack is really a must, especially when trying to get out of the house for PT appointment, etc.
  • Grabber: I don't know about you, but I drop stuff A LOT (I think some of that is due to some of the medication I take). And of course when you can't bend over or squat down to get something, it seems you drop things even more!! I borrowed this from my grandparents, but having a couple around the house would be helpful.

Device to help put on your socks - Putting on socks/pants/shoes is really difficult when you can't flex your hip past 90 degrees. My grandmother let me borrow this device that was given to my grandfather after he had a total hip replacement. It allows you to put on your sock without bending your knee more than 90 degrees. Slip on shoes are really helpful as well. I don't get out of the house (or my PJs) that often, but it is nice to not have to ask my husband to constantly put on my socks and shoes, though those first few days I did need help with my pants a lot. They make dressing hooks like this one but I just used my grabber to help pull up my pants. I only wear stretch yoga type pants anyways.


  • Toilet Riser: Not everyone that has a hip scope recommends a toilet riser, but if you have muscle atrophy and weakness like I do from years of chronic pain, then I highly recommend one of these. The first two days post-op I had to use a bedside commode as I explained previously, but my recovery experience is not the norm, I don't think. We bought this toilet riser for a really good deal and I'm glad we did. The handles have come in extra handy.  
Image found here
  • Ice packs - if you don't use a Game Ready icing system you will need ice packs - though I only used ice for about the first 4 days as I explained in this post. This is my favorite brand of ice pack and I love this wrap. I use it around my hips/sacrum/knee, you name it. In my opinion, even if you do ice a lot, the Game Ready isn't necessary because you can buy A LOT of ice packs for $300 (the price I was given to rent the Game Ready for 2 weeks). The Game Ready was nice the first 2 nights as it ran continuously (on 30 mins/off 30 mins) but it does eat through the ice quickly.

Image Source

Also Helpful:

  • TENS unit - this is placed on the muscles, creates a vibrating sensation, and helps distract the brain from pain. It helped me not have to use as much pain medication some days.
  • Theracane - I have used this for a couple of years now to help do self-massage and loosen tight muscles. There is a lot of muscle dysfunction for most with FAI/labral tears and this surgery creates more, especially in the quad area. Add on crutches and your muscles are a mess!
  • Body Pillow -I used this as a bolster to keep from rolling over on my surgical side while sleeping. I have a snoogle pillow that I bought when I was pregnant and having low back pain. Love this pillow! I put it up between my legs to keep from externally rotating my hip at night (you could easily just use regular pillows though). I also like the body pillow because it creates a barrier so my husband can't roll over on me during the night :)
  • Electric Throw/Blanket- If you have your surgery in the winter months or rent a Game Ready this will come in handy as icing sure makes me cold. I'm super cold all the time anyway!

  • Microwavable Booties - speaking of being cold all the time, my feet are super cold (they've been like this ever since the burning in my feet started 2.5 years ago, don't really know the exact cause). I used some birthday money and got these booties and I LOVE them! Not a bad deal either.

  • Freezer Meals- Before surgery my mom and I cooked up several meals to store in the freezer. You will not feel like being on your feet long enough to cook a meal for sometime. I am blessed and have had a lot of meals from family and friends brought to us as well. But I also have enough meals in my freezer to go a couple of months without cooking, which is a blessing so I can focus on recovering!
When people see me on crutches and ask me "what happened" and I tell them that I had hip surgery, their eyebrows raise. But when I tell them it was arthroscopic, they say "Oh, ok" (like that's not too big of a deal). True, an arthroscopic surgery is much less invasive than an open total hip replacement, but it is still a big surgery with a lengthy recovery. A surgery involving the hip is complicated by the fact that we never truly rest our hips because we use them for standing, sitting, even rolling over while lying down. I'm not sure how people make it through this surgery recovery without help.  My husband has basically kept the house going and we've relied a lot on family/friends. (I do have a 3.5 year old daughter which makes things a little more difficult. I might write another post on how to recover from this surgery with young children.) I don't say this to scare anyone out of this surgery, but just to help prepare you so you will not be alarmed post op!

Well, I think that covers it. Thanks to the two of you who actually read this far :) Hopefully it helps someone.

**Some of you have left comments/sent emails after reading this asking how I am doing now. Please check out my latest updates here for more info.**


  1. Thank You. You do make a difference and you are helping people.

  2. Glad I ran across your post...My 16 y.o. is on week 5 after her surgery and we have found several of the items you mention...but I LOVE the razor recommendation - she had me shave her legs for her prom last weekend and I wish I'd've seen this first :)

  3. My daughter may need to have this done. She is 21. This is very helpful and I appreciate you posting for people like us. Helpful:)

  4. Hi - I had my op 9 days ago and am thankfully doing well (no problem weight-bearing/no pain) but it's sore if I accidentally move it more than I should. Probably because of this the movement restriction is driving me crazy so your ideas on how to put socks on extra are great (no idea where I can find that device though!) And a long loofah will be on the shopping list tomorrow. I'm lucky that I've no problems standing so I've been doing the cooking (feels like I'm paying my way for my my mum to look after me).

    ps - being British I thought you meant alcohol as in drink rather than to clean the wound! (just as useful once you're off the heavy meds!)

  5. Thank you so much for all the information. It looks like I'm in need of the surgery. My husband will not be of much help, so it's good to have all these tips ahead of time. Hope you're doing well!

  6. Thank you. I am having the surgery on July 2, 2013. I am gathering my list of things that I will need thanks to your info. Hope you are doing better and there is a light at the end of the tunnel.


  8. Hi I am 36 hours post op and doing great. I have fibromyalgia too. I think being use to chronic pain this surgical pain is a relief over the pain from lsbral tear and impingement. My Dr also debrided a bursa. Released tight iliol band and repaired a torn ligament. The ice machine is a must bought mine outright for 300.00. Love my crutcheze pads and carrying pouch. Body pillow too. I would also reccomend stool softeners and zofran( prescription) if narcotics make you nauseated.I have bog taken pain pills for 19 hours. The ice machine had been great. I too made freezers meals. It ensures you eat healthy to aid recovery and takes some stress off hubby.

  9. Thank you for the information, I wish I had seen this before my surgery. These are indeed very useful tips.

    For stool: I have been eating apricots and did not have any problems so far.

    I have a question also: How ofter do you put icepacks? I have not been told to do so by my doctor but have some swelling so thought I should. I had my surgery 3 days ago.

  10. Hi I'm 23 and 7 days post op, I haunt really been told what I can and cat do yet (seeing pt later today) so iv been trying to not go over board. im in a LOT of pain daily but is just manageable. When I relax my hip rotates out and I'm finding it very difficult to stop this action. Also my foot has been FREEZING even tho I am constantly moving it. has any1 else had this problem if so what can I do, socks and slippers just rant doing the trick, I'd really appreciate some advice from people that know what I'm going through, would you email me any tips/info thank you xxx

  11. Thank you for all this helpful information. The long lofa is on my list. :-)I am 38 yrs old and I am on my 14th day post op and I am having an aching pain in my hip. Have you had this as well and is there something that I can do to releave it? I go to see my doctor on Monday but I just ran across your blog so I figured I would ask. Good luck on your recovery.

  12. The ice packs especially come in handy when you start doing your PT sessions, as sudden activity after long periods of being sedentary can make the pain flare up, usually inflaming the recovering areas. The TENS unit can counter this effect to an extent, as it offers motion and warmth to your muscles while you’re not able to move during the first few days or weeks after surgery.

  13. Thank you so much for your wonderful help. I have finally got my date for my surgery, and I really needed some guidance.
    I looked at your 'about' page and I have Hypermobility too. Maybe FAI is common for bendy people? It is awful living with chronic pain, but it does make us strong. God has a plan for us all. Stay strong, God Bless.xx

  14. Thank you so much for your post. I am 27 yrs old and heading for arthroscopic hip surgery in 2 weeks to repair and reattach my labrum after a car accident 2 years ago. I haven't found any other posts that provide useful information from someone who has already been through this.

  15. I agree with a lot of this aside from the TENS unit. Look into the BFST wrap. It promotes blood flow deep without causing additional strain on the nerves and soft tissues. The key to recovery is getting the inflammation down, keeping optimal circulation and trying not to over strain in the meantime. A lot of these suggestions are very helpful and definitely should be considered before you get home so you are prepared. Look into the wrap, it is great.

  16. Great list and advice. Thank you. I am preparing for surgery and have two little boys. Did you write the post on recovering with young children? I keep talking myself out of the surgery and then overdo it or they ask me to play tag and I remember that even though I am
    Worried about how I will care for them, surgery is needed.

  17. Thank you, I'm having my hips done soon and this is a big help

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  19. Being prepared both pre-and post operatively are critically important. One thing that is often overlooked in planning is Lymphatic Therapy pre- and post-op.

    Getting the lymphatic system moving *before* surgery . This helps clear out the body's natural drainage system so that it is ready to cope with the inevitable swelling. Having the lymphatic system clear also ensures that the immune system can move about freely (it travels through the lymphatic system) in order to help prevent infection, and that fat-soluble vitamins critical for the repair of damaged tissues can be absorbed by the body and delivered to the surgical site(s).

    Following the surgery, lymphatic drainage by a qualified Certified Lymphedema Therapist (CLT) is critical. You will not get the same result by going to a big box massage chain place. CLT's undergo rigorous training that qualifies them to work with complex lymphatic conditions. They are the most qualified people to see.

    Post-operative lymphatic work significantly reduces post-operative pain and swelling and can help move fluid that causes lumps and bumps.

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