Hip pain caused by arthritis is one of the most common conditions treated by orthopedic clinicians. Arthritis affects several million Americans annually, and hip replacement surgery is an evermore-popular option to find permanent pain relief.
Replacement surgery, like any surgery, has benefits and drawbacks. Learning as much as you can about a potential surgery will help shape your expectations and guide your rehab.
If you’ve been diagnosed with hip arthritis or suspect it may be the cause of your pain, read on for some frequently asked questions and answers on the topic.
How do I know if I need a hip replacement? Severe pain in the groin, limited mobility and limping are all signs of serious hip arthritis – the kind that often warrants replacement surgery.
What does it mean if my hip makes noises and I can feel it grinding? Grinding is a sign of joint inflammation and worn cartilage. It can be transient, but more often than not, once it starts it will become progressively worse and painful.
I’m limping a lot, but I don’t have bad pain – is this normal? Significant limping is generally a bad sign, typically indicating poor joint health — especially if the hip is stiff. Watch it closely – it will likely progress to a painful limp that will require treatment.
My hip has very limited movement – at what point should I be concerned? If you can’t cross your legs or have a hard time pivoting on the stiff leg, your stiffness may be serious. Any stiffness that causes irregular body mechanics and limping is a cause for concern and should be examined by a skilled clinician soonest.
I have pain in the back of my hip and down the back of my leg. What could that be? It’s most likely a case of sciatica, which generally does not have anything to do with needing a hip replacement.
Despite the abundance of information available online for patients undergoing a total hip replacement, there are many questions best answered by a physical therapist.
Is physical therapy painful and how long does it last? The first few weeks in the hospital and at home are uncomfortable, but once you reach an outpatient office, there is minimal pain. Patients are seen usually twice per week for an average of 20 to 45 minutes.
How long will I limp after surgery? Limping will persist until the muscles of the hip (which are cut during surgery) heal and become strong. Typically, patients will limp a very small degree for upwards of six months, but with strong dedication to your rehab program, it is possible to eliminate limping altogether by four months.
How long will my hip precautions last? Hip precautions are set by your surgeon to protect your hip from dislocating after surgery. It usually involves not bending the hip more than 90 degrees, crossing your legs or turning your toes inward. Some surgeons recommend these precautions for life, while others alleviate them after a year.
Will I have to wear a brace after surgery? Braces are only required if the patient sustains a dislocation. These instances are rare and can be prevented with good adherence to the post-surgical precautions.
How long will I need to walk with a device? Use of a walker, crutches or a cane will be necessary until you can walk with minimal limping, which occurs around three months time or less.
When can I begin playing golf? Within six months after surgery patients can expect to return to golfing and other low-impact sports. Higher intensity sports like running or tennis require more time – expect nine months to a year.
Joe DiVincenzo is a physical therapist and clinical specialist in manual therapy. He writes “On the Mend” weekly. Questions may be submitted to Joe by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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