Does hip pain limit your everyday activities such as walking up and down stairs or getting up from a seated position? Do you have trouble sleeping because pain keeps you awake? If you are reading this, chances are you can relate to some of these symptoms. You may even be taking prescription medications or using walking aids to help relieve the pain you endure on a daily basis.
Maybe you’ve even considered hip surgery as a way to end your pain once and for all.
As an orthopedic doctor, I know how you are feeling. I frequently treat patients who are faced with the choice between living with pain or hip replacement. More than 400,000 operations are performed each year that include total or partial hip replacements and this number is constantly increasing.
The decision to have hip surgery should be a cooperative effort on the part of you, your family, and your orthopedic surgeon. Recommendations for surgery are based on the extent of your pain, disability, and damage to your hip joint. Before reaching the conclusion to operate, your doctor will most likely advise you to consider other treatments first, such as pain medication, physical therapy, and exercise.
Wait Before Going Under the Knife!
Before you rush to judgment on whether or not to have hip replacement, you might want to try managing your pain by making some simple lifestyle changes. Listed are just a few suggestions for hip pain relief.
- Weight Loss – Maintaining a healthy weight is crucial when it comes to the stress on your joints. Let’s face it losing excess weight benefits your entire body – your heart, brain, muscles, and bones. The right combination of portion control and light exercise may be the secret to managing your pain.
- Exercise – Although some exercise is good for you be sure to avoid activities that cause pain. Some muscle soreness is to be expected but it should work itself out as you move through your day. Take it easy when you feel a sharp or shooting pain while exercising or if the pain lingers for hours or even days.
- Rest – Stop what you are doing when you feel pain. You should rest for at least 24 to 48 hours before resuming your old activity level.
- Apply ice – When you’re feeling pain it is usually because of inflammation in your joint. If pain is intense try applying ice four or five times a day for 10 to 15 minutes at a time.
- Elevation – Recline with your feet up to help reduce swelling and help reduce pain.
- Supplements – Since cartilage is what makes your hips move without pain there are supplements that are extremely helpful such as glucosomine & chondroitin that restore damaged cartilage. Omega 3 fish oil and MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) are excellent natural ingredients that lubricate your joints and aid in the efficiency of movement.
- Pain medications – Over the counter pain killers with ibuprofen will aid in targeting inflammation and reducing pain.
New Alternative to Hip Replacement!
When is it time to get your hip replaced? This is a question not easily answered. The treatments mentioned above may decrease hip pain but may not be the answer for everyone. Depending upon the damage shown in x rays, you may or may not be a candidate for surgery. There are certain conditions that rule out the possibility of hip replacement such as Parkinson’s disease, high risk of infection, and overall poor health.
Hip replacement surgery is usually performed for severe conditions such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, broken hip, and bone tumor. After exhausting other treatment methods mentioned above to alleviate your symptoms, surgery may become necessary. The good news is that there are some new and improved methods of performing hip replacement that are not as invasive as the standard surgery. These advancements include the following:
- Mini-Hip Replacement – This procedure uses two small incisions, and x-rays to guide the implant into position. It is hoped that this will prove to be a quicker, less painful recovery time. This may not be an option for everybody but the younger, athletic boomers, usually under 55 may be likely candidates for this procedure or the next one known as:
- Hip Resurfacing – In this procedure the implant is smaller and less normal bone is removed. The damaged hip’s ball and socket can be relined with smooth metal rather than cutting the worn bone away and replacing it. Resurfacing relieves hip pain and improves hip function by replacing the parts of the hip that have been damaged by disease or arthritis.
Almost as Good as New!
In the past if you were suffering with pain from hip damage you were asked to wait as long as possible before undergoing surgery. This is because a standard hip replacement usually wears out in about 15 years. Now with some of the new advancements in hip surgery it is more likely that younger patients will be given the opportunity to choose one of these techniques to treat their painful condition.
In addition to new alternatives to hip replacement procedures, research is being conducted to improve not only the technique but the eligibility of the patient. The areas of study underway include which patients are more likely to do well after hip replacement and how to improve recovery programs used after surgery. Information for patients regarding minimally invasive hip replacement surgery has been developed by the American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons.
Physical therapy is an important part of your rehabilitation. The exercises most effective are those that increase range of motion and make muscles strong without putting too much stress on the joint. The goals are to increase overall fitness and increase blood circulation by walking, bicycling on a bike machine, swimming, or cross country skiing.
Hip replacement is often called the miracle surgery because it is successful more than 90% of the time. Your new hip joint will reduce the pain you felt before surgery. However, always work with your physical therapist to create a recovery program that is individualized just for you. High impact sports such as running or playing basketball may never be approved by your doctor so be careful not to overstep your physical boundaries.
Remember, hip replacement isn’t for everyone. You may be able to manage your pain by making lifestyle changes that affect your flexibility and range of motion. If hip replacement is your only alternative, consult an orthopedic surgeon and be sure to ask about some of the alternatives to the standard hip replacement surgery.