Hip Replacement and the Mind-Body Connection
Vickie, 59, is in the health and fitness business. Since 1985, Vickie has co-owned Sound Mind & Body Gym, a fitness club in Seattle with about 3,000 members. Vickie had been involved in fitness beginning with many years of athletic training as a competitive marathon runner, skier and ski instructor, and USTA Tennis league player, and in bodybuilding as a competitor and judge. Today, she enjoys gardening and hosting barbecues. She also enjoys her family, including 3 grandchildren.
For a person who lives such a vibrant, active lifestyle, arthritis can take a cruel toll, not only on the joints, but on every aspect of life. In Vickie’s case, osteoarthritis wore away the cartilage protecting the joints. Most of the things that Vickie enjoyed began slipping away as the pain and stiffness from osteoarthritis increased. “Constant pain impacted everything in my life–I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t get in and out of the car.”
For the trim health club owner, competitive tennis player, and skier, just walking up the stairs at the health club became an enormous challenge. “It felt pitiful,” she says.
As her lifestyle eroded, Vickie’s relationships felt the pain, too. “The pain affects your personality,” she says. “I would snap at employees.” By the end of the day, Vickie couldn’t get out of her chair to get to the front desk.
Her arthritis affected her perception of herself, and, she says, the way others perceived her. “I felt like a very old lady,” says Vickie, who is in better overall fitness than many people half her age. As her disease progressed, others began to treat her differently. She says she hated it that “people were always asking if I was OK, especially at my health club where I felt like I was supposed to be a fitness example.”
Her family relationships were affected too. When her stepson had a baby, Vickie was unable to fly to visit and see the baby. All she could do was look at the pictures they sent. A few months later, they came to visit Vickie, but she couldn’t hold the baby or play with him very much because the hip pain made it impossible.
After 13 years of playing tennis with the same group on Tuesday mornings, she quit. “I just couldn’t contribute to the team,” Vickie says. She quit teaching her exercise class, too. More and more, the fulfilling activities that defined Vickie’s life were slipping away.
Vickie had put off surgery, though, because she’d heard that joint replacements wear out and it’s best to wait until you’re older. “I know now that that was a mistake,” she says.
In August 2004, Vickie’s orthopaedic surgeon told her point-blank that surgery was necessary. Her left hip had deteriorated to the point where the bones of the hip joint were rubbing together, grinding with every move she made.
Her surgeon chose a hip implant system from DePuy Orthopaedics, which offers metal, plastic, or ceramic-on-plastic bearings so the surgeon can mix-and-match implant parts to seek a stable fit. These implants also give the surgeon flexibility to choose different surgical techniques, ranging from the conventional approach, to computer-assisted surgery, to minimally invasive procedures.
Vickie’s surgeon opted for a minimally invasive approach. The term “minimally invasive” is used to describe surgical techniques utilizing smaller incisions, with the hope of reducing scarring and accelerating recovery.
In Vickie’s case, recovery was rapid and smooth. About a month after the surgery she got together with her Tuesday-morning tennis friends for lunch to celebrate. “They said they were very surprised that I was even walking,” she says. “Each week, life got a little better as I regained mobility and started doing activities that I hadn’t done in a long time.”
Vickie enjoyed a “Girls’ Weekend” trip with her daughter and granddaughters. Now that she’s able to travel again, she is planning trips to Napa Valley and New York City.
She says there’s a spring in her step again, and she’s recovered the motivation, which had eroded along with her hip joint. “I wish I had done this sooner,” she said. At home, she’s eating healthier foods to fuel her renewed physical activity. At work, she’s got big plans for remodeling and expanding the fitness club.
You’ll recall the club is called Sound Mind & Body. As Vickie’s personal story shows, mind and body work together, and when one suffers, so does the other. As her new hip has helped her physically, her sense of well-being and her relationships are in better health, too.
The performance of a hip replacement depends on your age, weight, activity level and other factors. There are potential risks, and recovery takes time. People with conditions limiting rehabilitation should not have this surgery. Only an orthopaedic surgeon can tell if hip replacement is right for you.