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What are the best alternatives to hip replacement surgery?

Non-operative solutions for alleviating hip pain should always be considered before joint replacement surgery. A few of the most effective non-operative options include pain medication, physical therapy, weight loss, injections, and the use of a walking aid.


Over the counter pain medications are a great place to start for anyone suffering from hip arthritis. Non-prescription medications, which include Tylenol and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, have traditionally been recommended to patients suffering from hip

pain. However, recent studies have shown that Tylenol has no effect on hip or knee arthritis, and as a result, we will likely see decreased use in the setting of hip arthritis prior to joint replacement surgery in the coming years.


If a patient’s pain is not managed by over the counter NSAIDs, then the next step is to try prescription strength NSAIDs. In very rare instances of severe pain, an orthopedist may recommend a short trial of opioid pain medications. However, patients are discouraged from using these medications unless absolutely necessary. Taking opioid pain medications will make pain control following surgery more difficult and risky.


Physical therapy can be used to strengthen the muscle around the hip joint, which may help stabilize it and decrease the pain associated with arthritis. Physical therapy for hip arthritis typically includes things like isometric exercises, aqua aerobics, and endurance activities. Even if physical therapy is not a sufficient treatment for the pain, it still provides benefits to patients. Any amount of physical therapy leading up to hip replacement surgery will help to improve pain control and ease the recovery process following surgery.


Weight loss is very challenging for patients suffering from arthritis. Hip pain caused by arthritis can limit a patient’s ability to exercise. We tend to approach weight loss in two ways, one being exercise and the other being diet. Unfortunately, hip pain effectively eliminates exercise as a form of weight loss for many people. As a result, we focus our attention primarily on diet. Given the challenges that are common with diet-only weight loss solutions, it’s not unheard of for patients who are overweight to be referred to a dietician for assistance in this area. In fact, this course of treatment is increasingly common before patients undergo hip replacement surgery.


For those patients who are on the younger side, or are very averse to surgical intervention, hip injections can be a temporizing solution. Hip injections may control pain and allow for continued hip function. These injections are done under x-ray or ultrasound guidance, and they can be done as frequently as once every three to four months. Our hope is that the relief would last longer than this time period. If the pain relief from an injection lasts less than three months, then it’s time to consider more invasive treatment options.


Walking aids can be used by patients who want to hold off on surgery temporarily. Canes, walkers, walking sticks, and crutches can be used to help patients get around and decrease pain, but these are not long-term solutions. Using a walking aid can be very limiting. Usually, patients who are at this stage in the development of hip arthritis will benefit greatly from hip replacement surgery.


Only after my patients in Redding, California, have tried all of the alternatives mentioned above would I recommend surgery. Research has shown that patients benefit when they try non-prescription treatment options prior to surgery. When these alternatives are no longer offering relief from pain, then it’s time to visit a primary care physician in the North State and seek additional help. A primary care physician should be able to assess what is truly going on with the hip, to ensure that the pain is actually being caused by arthritis.


For patients who suffer from hip arthritis, total hip replacement has been shown to be the single most effective, long-term solution for decreasing pain and increasing mobility.


To learn more about hip replacement surgery in Redding and schedule a consultation appointment, please contact my office at (530) 395-0340.


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