Millions of Americans struggle with debilitating hip pain on a daily basis. Most of these people are over the age of 50 and suffer from age-related degeneration or arthritis. Unfortunately, conservative treatments such as rest, pain relievers, and physical therapy become less and less effective over time. If you have reached the point where your hip pain is preventing you from participating in the activities you love, it's time to talk to one of our orthopedic surgeons about the possibility of hip replacement surgery.

What Causes Age-Related Hip Pain?

In most cases, chronic hip pain is caused by some form of arthritis. If you were a competitive athlete when you were younger, you might have more wear and tear on your hip joints than someone who was not as active, especially if you were a runner, skier, gymnast, or hockey player. However, you don't have to have been an athlete to have hip pain. People who spent their lives doing manual labor, and even people who have lived relatively sedentary lives, are often candidates for hip surgery. The most common causes of hip pain include:

  • Osteoarthritis. As we age, the cartilage cushioning our joints can wear away. Most people seeking a hip replacement are over 50 and have this form of age-related arthritis. People with a family history of osteoarthritis and former athletes are more prone to the condition. Once the cartilage has become frayed and rough, there is no treatment or cure other than a total joint replacement.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis. With this autoimmune disease, the synovial membrane becomes inflamed and thickened, irreversibly damaging the cartilage and causing pain and stiffness. Rheumatoid arthritis usually affects the joints in the hands, wrists, and knees, but some people might experience hip pain that could be fixed with hip replacement. 
  • Injury. Dislocations or fractures of the hip that don't heal well could eventually cause chronic pain and arthritis that is best addressed with hip replacement.
  • Childhood hip disease. There are a variety of hip disorders that can affect infants, children, and adolescents. If these are not corrected effectively, they can lead to early degeneration and premature osteoarthritis and require a hip replacement before the age of 50.

Regardless of the cause of your chronic hip pain, our orthopedists will evaluate your mobility, pain level, and overall health before recommending hip replacement surgery.

What Happens in a Hip Replacement?

Although it is called a total hip replacement, the only thing being replaced is the ball-and-socket joint that allows your leg to move freely. The bones that most of us think of as our hips remain intact. During the surgery, the damaged "ball" side of the joint is removed, and a metal replacement is cemented into the hollow center of your femur bone. The damaged cartilage is removed from the socket side of the joint and replaced with a metal socket. A spacer is inserted between the new ball and socket to allow for a smooth, gliding surface. The procedure usually does not take more than a couple of hours.

Like any major surgery, your doctor will make sure you are healthy enough to undergo the procedure. This is one reason for not putting off a hip replacement for too many years. The younger you are when you have the surgery, the less risky it is and the easier the recovery will be for you.

Recovery From Hip Replacement Surgery

Complications following a hip replacement are rare but could include infection, blood clots, and dislocation of the prosthetic joint. These issues occur in fewer than two percent of patients, but it's important that you follow your orthopedist's post-surgical instructions to avoid problems. In general, your recovery will consist of the following:

  • Pain management and wound care. There will be some pain following surgery that can be managed with over-the-counter medications. Your stitches or staples will be removed a couple of weeks after the surgery. Keeping the area clean, dry, and bandaged will speed healing and reduce the risk of infection.
  • Gradual increase in activity. You will be given a program to slowly increase your mobility. You will also have daily exercises and work with a physical therapist to strengthen your hip. If you keep up with the program, you should be able to resume most of your activities in three to six weeks after surgery.

The orthopedists at Northwestern Extremity Specialists are experienced in hip replacement surgeries and are dedicated to helping our patients recover fully and quickly.

Is it Time for a Hip Replacement?

If you have reached a point where your hip pain has affected your mobility, the skilled orthopedic team at Northwest Extremity Specialists will help you determine if a hip replacement is right for you. We will evaluate your overall health and make sure you are at your healthiest to ensure the best possible outcome. Call us today at 503-245-2420 to make an appointment in the Portland-area office closest to you.