Osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease, is the most common type of arthritis that affects over 32.5 million adults in the U.S. Hip osteoarthritis, however, can become a major cause for concern, especially if it hinders mobility. Fortunately, with the rise of new technologies and medical techniques, there are a variety of hip osteoarthritis treatments available for patients, ranging from conservative measures to total hip replacement surgery.
While finding the right treatment measure is a conversation you should have with your local orthopedic physician, Dr. Clymer at APEX Orthopedics has outlined the most common treatment options available for hip osteoarthritis. Keep reading to learn more about those treatments and how they can benefit you.
What is hip osteoarthritis?
Hip osteoarthritis is the wear and tear of the cartilage around the hip joint, which leads to inflammation, pain, and even joint degeneration.
There are different types of joints in the body; the hip is a “ball-in-socket” joint. Just as the name suggests, a ball-in-socket joint consists of a ball-like structure that moves inside of a depression in the bone to allow for rotational movements. In the hip, the joint is created by the bone-shaped head of your thigh bone (femur) that fits into the hip socket (acetabular socket).
Cartilage covers the joint and acts as a layer of protection to stop the articulation (connection) between bones from grinding against each other. Over time, the cartilage gradually wears away until the joints touch. Think about the tires on your car, for instance. Through the years, traveling causes the tires to grow old and become thinner and thinner until they no longer work.
Diagnosis for hip osteoarthritis requires an examination from a physician, along with tests such as X-rays or ultrasounds. But you may have an idea on whether you have osteoarthritis based on these symptoms:
- Joint stiffness, especially after you’ve been sitting or lying down
- Pain and swelling around the hip joint (can be a sharp pain or dull ache)
- Feeling of the joints crunching when you move
- Inability to move for basic tasks such as cleaning or putting on clothes
- Pain in other areas such as the buttocks, groin, thigh, and knees
Some people are more prone to hip osteoarthritis than others. Factors that come into play include:
- Work injuries
- Physical activity (especially from athletes)
It’s common for osteoarthritis to appear around your 50s, but it can happen earlier if there’s an underlying issue. For example, someone with an injury or a significant genetic predisposition might be diagnosed with hip osteoarthritis in their 40s.
Most people can tolerate osteoarthritis in the shoulders, elbows, and ankles, but joints that affect walking (such as the knees and hips) become a larger issue. For most people, it comes down to two choices: deal with the pain or seek out a hip osteoarthritis treatment.
Types of treatments of hip osteoarthritis treatments
Finding the right hip osteoarthritis treatment starts with an assessment. You can think of osteoarthritis as a spectrum, with some instances being more severe than others. Dr. Clymer always focuses on each individual patient and their concerns before creating a treatment plan. During an initial appointment, he often asks questions to understand factors such as:
- What caused your hip osteoarthritis?
- How severe is your osteoarthritis?
- Is the pain tolerable?
- What are your lifestyle goals?
- How has hip osteoarthritis affected those goals?
From there, Dr. Clymer can decide whether more conservative hip osteoarthritis treatments will suffice or if you would benefit more from surgery.
Conservative treatment options for hip osteoarthritis
Despite what you may believe, most people do not require surgery. With proper tools and guidance, many find pain relief through alternative measures. Here are the conservative options we often recommend for our patients in lieu of surgery (or combined with surgery in some cases).
Many people believe that the best thing to do for the joints is to rest. Whenever pain flares, rest can be helpful; however, joints love to move. Joints depend on natural lubrication from synovial fluid. Similarly to how oil moves gears, synovial fluid helps move your joints. First, movement increases the amount of synovial fluid, which can help reduce pain. Second, motion increases circulation through the entire body. That circulation helps supply the necessary nutrients and oxygens needed to promote joint health.
You don’t have to be aggressive to get moving. Simply lifting light weights or taking slow walks a few times a week can help you manage your hip osteoarthritis.
At times, the pain becomes too much and hinders movement. In those instances, your doctor may recommend over-the-counter NSAIDs (anti-inflammatory medication such as Advil) or prescription medications. Especially with NSAIDs, you should always talk to your doctor to ensure they are the right hip osteoarthritis treatment for you. Side effects can include stomach irritation, ulcers, or even kidney damage. Reasonable dosing and monitoring can help alleviate those side effects.
Another pain management option for hip osteoarthritis is injections directly into the joint. Cortisone injections, for example, can help with inflammation, and the effects tend to last for 3 to 6 months before you would need another one. Many people manage their arthritis simply through injections alone.
Regenerative medicine options such as stem cell injections or platelet-rich plasma can help replace worn or damaged tissue. This option works best if you have mild-to-moderate arthritis and are a younger patient. People with severe arthritis tend to do better with other hip osteoarthritis treatments since regenerative results are spotty in more extreme cases.
Total hip replacement surgery for hip osteoarthritis
When conservative treatments don’t work, you may want to talk to your doctor about a total hip replacement. Keep in mind that this is your decision, not your physician’s. There is no rush for you to make the choice, and it is up to your timeline and your goals when you want to proceed with surgery. However, you don’t want to suffer through pain longer than necessary or have to halt on the activities you enjoy in life simply because of hip osteoarthritis.
As a general rule, Dr. Clymer tells patients that if you can’t function, stay active, and keep your weight under control, then surgery is probably your best option.
Many people believe it’s best to wait until later in life for a joint replacement, leading them to deal with pain and discomfort until they are in their 70s. However, we believe that for most patients, getting a hip replacement in your 60s can give you more time to enjoy the benefits of a total hip replacement.
How do I know if total joint replacement is the right choice?
The answer to whether you need a total joint replacement of the hip depends on your X-rays. Normally there is a certain amount of space between the joints. If that space is good, we could probably treat your hip osteoarthritis with conservative measures. However, if there is little-to-no joint space and the joint is rocking, spurring, impinging, or becoming unaligned, then it might be time for surgery.
We understand that surgery may be a scary choice, but total joint replacements are fairly common and a vast majority of patients do just fine. Those who don’t do well (or are at a higher risk) tend to have underlying conditions such as weight issues, heart disease, and diabetes. In those cases, it’s best to try to get as healthy as possible before you proceed with any type of surgery, including orthopedic surgery.
Many fail to realize that what you do after surgery is just as important as the surgery itself. If you undergo surgery then continue living an inactive lifestyle, it won’t do your body much good. On the other hand, if you stay active and are willing to do the work on your own afterwards (including staying mobile, attending physical therapy, etc.), then a total hip replacement can be extremely effective.
What to expect during recovery
If you don’t have a strong support system at home, you’ll need to stay at a facility for 1 to 3 days after a hip replacement surgery. Those with help at home can leave after a day. Your doctor will prescribe pain medication to help you manage any discomfort. Remember, mobility is key. Therefore you’ll want to start moving using a walker and physical therapy assistance (in house or at a facility).
Within a month or two, you should start feeling much better without much soreness. The great thing about the hip joint is that it tends to move better and become less stiff than the knees, making recovery much easier. Once the recovery process is complete, most people can expect their hip replacement to last for the rest of their lives.
Get to know Dr. Clymer and APEX Orthopedics
Dr. Clymer specializes in upper and lower extremity general orthopedics, along with total joint arthroscopy, lumbar spine treatments, and sports medicine. For decades, he has successfully provided hip osteoarthritis treatments for a variety of patients to help them move and feel better.
With the help of the APEX’s private practice model, Dr. Clymer ensures each patient receives the most value that doesn’t involve hidden fees or outlandish pricing.
The core of his success lies in proper diagnosis. An appointment with Dr. Clymer includes the highest quality technology to pinpoint a patient’s underlying musculoskeletal conditions. From there, he can better understand which hip osteoarthritis treatment will work best for you.
For a thorough evaluation with Dr. Clymer, call us at 913-642-0200 or schedule an appointment today.