Wear and tear takes a toll on all of our joints; the joints used most are the most susceptible. Osteoarthritis is common in the hip. Other kinds of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis and gout, also can affect the hip. The hip is subject to injury. Hip fracture is a threat to elderly patients because of the thinning of the bone, owing to osteoporosis that occurs with aging. This thinning often involves the main supporting bone of the hip. Hence, fracture, with even minor trauma, tends to occur in the senior years.
Proper function of the hip joint is important for walking, but it also is involved in rising from a chair and ascending stairs. Disability of the hip quickly comes to one’s attention. Report sudden onset of pain or discomfort in the hip to your physician.
Important Points in Treatment
The specific treatment for any arthritis depends on its cause. Many general measures help control symptoms. The hip is the major weight-bearing joint in the body. It benefits from rest if inflamed. Rest for the hip includes freedom from weight bearing. If you are overweight, you will get an increment of benefit for each pound you lose. Weight loss is a slow process, but a weight-loss program should be started without delay.
The use of a cane or crutches can offer some immediate relief from weight bearing. There is always a safety factor to consider when using crutches. If not done carefully, the transfer of weight bearing from the hip to the arms and shoulders can cause the development of arthritic symptoms there as well. Instruction in the proper use of crutches is important to obtain the maximum benefit with the least risk of injury from falling. Adjust crutches to the right height and grip for their safe and effective use.
Use of a cane is simple, but it must be done properly to get the most relief from weight bearing. Instructions for cane use are available from a physical therapist, who can also help with the proper length of the cane, a feature important for maximum benefit in relief from weight bearing.
Joints need to retain their full range of motion, and the muscles moving the joints need enough exercise to prevent muscle wasting and atrophy. Accomplish this by alternating periods of rest of the joint with careful exercise. Select exercises with your physician or a physical therapist.
Application of heat can be helpful in reducing pain and discomfort. Use heat carefully to avoid injuring tissues. This is not a case in which hotter is better. Patients with vascular disease must be particularly careful about the application of heat.
Anti-inflammatory drugs, administered either as pills or by injection, are used to improve the symptoms of pain and stiffness. Many powerful drugs are available without a prescription. All of these medications have serious side effects, some even with normal doses. The pharmacy may be an inexpensive source for these medicines, but your physician is still the best counsel regarding selection and dosage.
Notify Our Office If ...
- You have new onset of pain in your hip.
- You have locking of the hip when you try to move it.
- You have heat in your hip, particularly with fever or chills.
- You have dark stools or blood in your bowel movements, particularly if you are taking arthritis medicines.
Arthritis of the hip can become an incapacitating health problem. Standing, walking, rising from a chair, and even sitting involve the hip. When the hip is painful, these activities are difficult; when the hip joint stiffens, some of these activities begin to be impossible. Surgical hip replacement should be considered when moving around and caring for yourself becomes too difficult.
Most hip replacements are done for hips affected by osteoarthritis. Replacement surgery is also performed on patients with other kinds of arthritis affecting the hip joint. Hip replacements may also be done in some cases of a broken hip.
The first consideration is your ability to undergo the surgery. Hip replacement is a major surgical procedure, but it is done on patients of all ages. Patients tolerate it well. Those who have other serious health problems may need additional evaluation to determine any additional risks they may incur.
Important Points in Treatment
- Hip replacement is a safe operation. Complications occur in less than 1% of patients.
- The replacement hip lasts between 10 and 15 years before it begins to show wear. Need for replacement is likely after about 10 years.
- Recovery from hip replacement surgery is a matter of gradual improvement in function over a period of months. Although the stay in the hospital may be short, an interval of physical rehabilitation is necessary before full recovery.
- Even with full recovery, some limitation of motion in the hip remains. Prosthetic joints cannot fully recapture all of the motion of a natural joint. A slight limp may persist.