When hip pain and stiffness make it difficult for you to get out of bed or take a short walk, arthritis may be to blame. The degenerative condition is the leading reason why more than 450,000 hip replacement surgeries are performed each year. “When your normal activities are limited by pain, it’s time to talk to your doctor about hip replacement surgery,” said Brian Lewis, MD, a hip specialist and orthopaedic surgeon at Duke Health.
Hip Arthritis and Pain
Typically, hip arthritis begins around middle age, when cartilage that protects the hip joint can start to erode. With no cartilage cushion in place, bone can rub against bone. A previous hip injury or a family history of arthritis can increase your risk for developing hip arthritis. The resulting pain can occur in the groin, radiate from your hip into the thigh, buttock, or upper leg.
Treating Hip Arthritis
In most cases, nonsurgical treatments are the first step for managing pain associated with hip arthritis. Physical therapy can improve your hip’s range of motion and help with joint stiffness. Maintaining a healthy weight and regular exercise can also help. A steroid injection may provide temporary relief. However, nothing can stop further hip joint degeneration.
Two Approaches to Hip Replacement Surgery
Surgeons have two options for replacing your deteriorating hip joint with an artificial joint made from plastic and metal.
In anterior hip replacement surgery, surgeons access the hip by making an incision in the front of the upper thigh. With the posterior approach, surgeons make an incision on the side of the buttock to reach the hip.
There are few differences between the two approaches. It's best to be evaluated by an experienced orthopaedic provider to learn which option is best for you.
Recovery May Take Time
No matter which procedure you undergo, the recovery period is about the same, said Dr. Lewis. Some people spend a day or two in the hospital, but many go home the same day. Physical therapy helps people return to normal work and recreational activities anywhere from six to 12 weeks after surgery. Sometimes, however, a full recovery can take up to one year.
Choosing the Right Surgeon for Your Hip Replacement
Choose a surgeon who has experience with the procedure you need, said Dr. Lewis. You should trust their recommendations. Second opinions can help you gain that confidence. "You want to get as many opinions as you need to make sure that all your questions are answered and that you feel good about your decision. If you need to talk to two or more providers to find one that you're really comfortable with, then that's what you should do," he added. “Then, regardless of surgical approach, you’re going to do really well.”