How to Know if You Need Hip Replacement Surgery

As two of your most important load-bearing joints, your hips are inherently strong and resilient. They’re also prone to a variety of painful problems, ranging from overuse injuries and structural disorders to age-related degeneration, more commonly called wear-and-tear. 

Chronic hip pain that worsens over time is often caused by osteoarthritis, or degenerative joint disease. On top of being inconvenient and exhausting, arthritis-related hip pain can limit your range of motion, restrict your mobility, and keep you awake at night. 

While over-the-counter pain medication can usually mask mild to moderate hip discomfort long enough to get you through the day (or night), pain relievers tend to lose effectiveness as the condition progresses. If this sounds familiar, it may be time to consider a hip replacement

Basic hip joint anatomy 

Your hip joint gets such a wide range of motion from its versatile ball-and-socket structure — the rounded head of your thigh bone (femur) is the “ball” that sits inside the “socket” (acetabulum) of your pelvic bone. 

Both the ball and the socket are lined with a thin layer of slippery tissue (articular cartilage) that protects your bones and facilitates easy, fluid movement. A more fibrous, rigid form of cartilage (labrum) lines the rim of the socket and forms a tight, gasket-like seal around the ball that helps stabilize your joint.   

In a healthy hip joint, the ball and socket fit together flawlessly and move smoothly, securely, and painlessly.   

Joint damage and chronic hip pain

People experience persistent hip pain for all sorts of reasons. Overuse injuries like tendonitis and bursitis can lead to ongoing stiffness and discomfort, while muscle strain and inflammation can make it harder to walk, climb stairs, or stand from a seated position. 

Chronic hip pain — pain that lasts longer than six months — is usually the product of a structural disorder, a degenerative condition, or both.     

Femoroacetabular impingement (FAI) is a common structural problem that occurs when bone spurs develop along the ball and/or socket of your hip joint, increasing the friction within the joint that accelerates the normal wear-and-tear process. 

Left untreated, FAI can damage the integrity of the labral tissue that stabilizes your joint; it can also set the stage for osteoarthritis, a disease that progressively destroys the articular cartilage that protects your joint and facilitates smooth, easy movement. 

FAI can often be remedied early on, before it causes irreversible joint damage. Unfortunately, most people don’t seek treatment until their hip pain has become unbearable, usually well after the damage is done and the joint has begun to deteriorate.  

And while the right treatment strategies can help you slow the progression of osteoarthritis, the disease itself can’t be stopped or reversed. As your cartilage slowly erodes over time, you can expect the affected hip to feel increasingly stiff and painful.  

Conservative treatment options

Conservative care for ongoing hip pain initially involves resting the joint, avoiding activities that trigger or exacerbate your discomfort, and taking over-the-counter pain relievers as needed. 

Physical therapy aims to slow degeneration and relieve pain by strengthening your hip joint and keeping it stable. Losing excess weight can take pressure off the joint, while engaging in low-impact activities like swimming, cycling, or walking can help prolong the life of your joint. 

You may also be able to address intense hip pain with an anti-inflammatory joint injection like cortisone. Unfortunately, steroid injections only provide temporary relief and can’t be repeated more than three or four times per year.  

Hip joint replacement surgery

When conservative treatment options fail to provide adequate relief from persistent hip pain, many people find themselves contemplating a more comprehensive solution: hip replacement surgery. A hip replacement may be the right solution for you if your pain:

By completely removing the diseased or damaged parts of your hip joint and replacing them with incredibly precise and well-fitted artificial joint implants, hip replacement surgery aims to restore full integrity and fluid, pain-free movement to your joint.  

While a hip replacement is generally regarded as a “last resort” treatment, the incomparable and long-lasting relief it provides leaves many patients wishing they’d considered having surgery sooner. 

If you’re ready to put an end to chronic hip pain, we can help. Call your nearest Orthopaedic Associates of Reading Ltd. office in Hamburg, Reading, or Wyomissing, Pennsylvania, today, or request an appointment online to schedule a visit with one of our seasoned joint experts any time. You can also send a message to the team here on our website.

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