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When to get a hip replacement

When to get a hip replacement? That question is always in the back of the mind of patients suffering from hip pain.

Approximately 1 in 4 people develop osteoarthritis of the hip over the course of their lifetime. We sometimes refer to osteoarthritis (OA) as degenerative, or wear-and-tear, arthritis. It affects the articular cartilage in your hip. Articular cartilage is the smooth lining that covers the surfaces of the ball-and-socket joint of the hip. When the articular cartilage degenerates, or wears away, the layer of bone just beneath it, called the subchondral bone, is exposed. This creates a “bone on bone” condition in the hip. Hip alignment problems, hip injuries, medical conditions affecting the subchondral bone, and even genetics can contribute to the development of OA.

When to get a hip replacement depends on your symptoms

The symptoms of hip osteoarthritis usually begin as pain while putting weight on the affected hip. You may limp. Limping is the body’s way of reducing the amount of force that the hip has to deal with. The changes that happen with hip osteoarthritis cause the affected hip to feel stiff and tight. This is due to a loss in its range of motion. Bone spurs will usually develop, which can also limit how far the hip can move. Finally, as the condition becomes worse, pain may be present all the time. Hip pain may even keep you awake at night.

The diagnosis of hip osteoarthritis starts with a complete history and physical examination. X-rays will be required to determine the extent of the cartilage damage and suggest a possible cause for it. Other tests may be required if there is reason to believe that other conditions are contributing to the degenerative process. Blood tests may be required to rule out systemic arthritis or infection in the hip.

There is no cure for osteoarthritis, but therapies are available. They ease symptoms and slow down the degeneration of the joint. Some lifestyle changes may be in order. Excess weight will exacerbate the condition. Regular exercise will alleviate some of the symptoms. Non-surgical treatment options include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDS like ibuprofen or acetaminophen); cortisone injections; physical therapy and the use of mechanical aids such as canes or walkers. We begin with the least intrusive of these remedies. We recommend hip replacement only when your osteoarthritis interferes with your ability to function well. You will benefit from hip replacement when the pain becomes so intense that you can no longer tolerate it. Consider hip replacement surgery when the pain prevents you from performing even simple daily activities.

For more information on this subject, call The Zehr Center for Orthopaedics at 239-596-0100 or visit www.zehrcenter.comThe information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments, or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of a visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read on this topic. 

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