Painful hips are no laughing matter. After all, hips are the human body's largest ball-and-socket joints, designed to stabilize and support the weight of the entire body. So when hips are hampered by arthritis or other problems, it can be hard to have a good day or a restful night. Fortunately, with today's range of treatment options, relief can be reached.
Hips are a prime target for arthritis. The first sign may be an occasional ache, but over time, the pain may become too much to ignore. Millions of Americans have arthritis. There are more than 100 different types of arthritis, and osteoarthritis, the most common type, is a leading cause of hip pain. Joints like the hips are places where bones meet and join together. Those meeting places are cushioned by cartilage, so the bones don't rub right up against each other. But when the cartilage is worn away—which is actually the definition of osteoarthritis—the result is a bone-on-bone grind. That grinding hurts. You can feel it walking, sitting or even lying down trying to sleep. Other causes of hip pain include rheumatoid arthritis, osteonecrosis (death of bone caused by insufficient blood supply), injury and bone tumors.
Early diagnosis of arthritis and tailored treatment are crucial in slowing or preventing damage to your joints. Only a physician can determine if you have arthritis, based on:
- The overall pattern of symptoms.
- Medical history.
- Physical exam.
- X-rays and other imaging techniques.
- Lab tests.
Arthritis is a disease that typically worsens over the years, so it is common for treatment to involve more than one approach and change over time. For some people, lifestyle changes, medications and walking aids help alleviate the pain. For others, hip replacement surgery may be the only long-term solution. Together, you and Dr. Byrne can determine the best treatment options for you. Here are some nonsurgical treatments often recommended for hip pain:
- Pacing your activities.
- Assistive devices.
- Low-impact exercise.
- Heat or cold.
- Physical and occupational therapy.
Is it time for a hip replacement?
That's a question you and Dr. Byrne will have to answer together. But when nonsurgical treatments aren't providing enough relief for you to enjoy life the way you'd like, the time may be right.
Here are some signs to consider:
- Hip joint damage is visible on x-ray.
- You have frequent pain, swelling, and stiffness in your hip.
- The pain and stiffness in your hip interferes with your daily life and limits your mobility.
Dr. Byrne may decide that surgery is not appropriate if you have an infection or if you lack the bone mass or bone strength to support an artificial hip.