PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -Hip pain is something many people are forced to live with. But, what if there was a way to relieve the pain and continue to do all the activities you love?

Well, there may be an option to relieve the pain that you are unaware of.

High school special education teacher Jennifer Shuster lives an active life.

“For my job I have to walk to all my classes,” Shuster said. “I would run four to seven miles every day.”

Then, hip pain stopped her in her tracks.

“I started walking with a limp. It would come and go, and that’s why I thought it was arthritis,” Shuster said.

However, it was actually a torn labrum. The labrum is a ring of cartilage along the outer rim of the socket part of the hip joint. It holds the ball at the top of your thighbone in place. It gets torn from the wear and tear of vigorous activity.

“Typically, we see structural problems of bone that may be created by sports in our youth that leave our hips shaped not perfectly round,” Dr. John Christoforetti from West Penn Hospital said.

For young patients like Shuster, opening up the hip would mean a more difficult recovery.

“They’re like using these walkers, and it’s usually older people, and you’re like, ‘Oh man. And you’re out of commission for such a long time, and I can’t afford to be out of commission like that.’” Dr. Christoforetti said.

For people younger than 50, a better option is arthroscopic surgery. This has a long history of success with other joints.

Doctors can put cameras and instruments in through incisions no wider than your pinky to fix the tear and reshape the bone.

“Not only do people feel better, but they get back to a very active life. I think she surprised us all with how well she did,” Dr. Christoforetti said.

“As soon as I woke up from surgery, he had me sitting on a stationary bike that I had to ride for 20 minutes,” Shuster said.

“By the next morning, we find most of the pain is gone from the operation,” Dr. Christoforetti said.

There is still a lot of rehab afterwards. No weight bearing for at least two weeks. Then to prevent scar tissue, a strap-on machine at home passively pedals the leg for eight hours a day plus physical therapy for three months.

“I was non weight bearing for 6 weeks,” Shuster said. “He told me, ‘I don’t want you running for a year.’”

A risk, which occurs in less than one percent, is a blood clot in the leg that can travel to the lung. This is potentially deadly.

The operation is not for people over 300 pounds, or for people with sedentary habits. Insurance usually won’t cover it for people older than 50.

So, what was Jennifer’s biggest concern before the procedure?

“If I have the surgery, will I still be able to run and ride my bike and do all the things I like to do?” she said.

She had the surgery three years ago. Now, she’s back to all her usual activities, so much so, she hurt her knee skiing.

“I have great flexibility. I have great movement,” Shuster said.


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