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Medical Alternatives to Hip Replacement Surgery

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Osteoarthritis related image Photo: Getty Images

Have you been told you have osteoarthritis? Your hip joint has worn out and you need a hip replacement operation. An increasing number of people are having these operations in their younger years and if you aren’t in your 60’s yet, the thought of having to have revision surgeries may be concerning.

There are other medical options and if your arthritis isn’t causing you too much pain; it may be worth considering these:

1. Regular use of anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen can take away the swelling and relieve pain associated with the condition. The downside of this type of treatment is that it can sometimes cause stomach problems.

2. Steroid injections. These can be injected directly into the affected joint. They work by reducing the effectiveness of the immune system and thereby reducing its immune response, inflammation. They only normally provide benefit if the joint has not yet worn away. If it has, it is unlikely to help.
3. Physical therapy can be given for mild to moderate cases of hip arthritis.
4. Alteration of lifestyle. You will be advised to avoid any activities that cause pain to the hip, but it is still important to remain active so you could take up different activities such as swimming which does not place as much stress on the joint.
5. Your doctor may be able to refer you for hydrotherapy. This is where you are given gentle exercises to do in a warm swimming pool. If done regularly, this can benefit arthritis sufferers.
6. If your pain is more severe, you may be given walking aids such as a frame or crutches to assist you. If your hip arthritis has been caused by one leg being shorter than the other or a type of abnormal walking gait, you may be offered special orthotic shoes to help correct your walking.

By employing some or all of these measures it may be possible to postpone hip replacement surgery for several years. Many people choose to live with their condition if the pain isn’t debilitating, particularly as artificial hip joints are not permanent.

An alternative type of surgery is now available that does not require total hip replacement. This is called hip resurfacing.

Hip resurfacing is where diseased or damaged surfaces of the hip joint are removed and metal caps are replaced over them. This removes less bone than a total hip replacement, is easier to re-do if you need a further operation, and is quicker to recover from. Recovery from hip resurfacing takes about eight weeks, compared to six months for a total hip replacement. However, if you have a metal allergy or if you are a young woman who is intending to become pregnant in the future, this operation is not suitable. This is because of the unknown effects of metal ions on the developing fetus.

Arthritis and Steroid Injections, Web MD, page accessed 26th July 2011 - http://arthritis.webmd.com/steroid-injections
Hip Arthritis (Osteoarthritis), Physio Adviser, page accessed 26th July 2011 - http://www.physioadvisor.com.au/9249150/hip-arthritis-hip-osteoarthritis-arthritis-of-.htm
Alternatives to Hip Replacement by Jonathan Cluett, M.D, page accessed 26th July 2011 - http://orthopedics.about.com/od/hipkneereplacement/a/hipalternatives.htm
Hip Resurfacing, Bupa, page accessed 26th July 2011 - http://www.bupa.co.uk/health-information/directory/h/hip-resurfacing

Reviewed July 26, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg R.N.
Edited by Shannon Koehle

Joanna is a freelance health writer for The Mother magazine and Suite 101 with a column on infertility, http://infertility.suite101.com/. She is author of the book, 'Breast Milk: A Natural Immunisation,' and co-author of an educational resource on disabled parenting, in addition to running a charity for people damaged by vaccines or medical mistakes.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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