How Do I Know If I Need Hip Surgery?


When should I talk to my doctor about hip replacement surgery?

That’s a question you and your orthopedic surgeon will have to answer together. But when hip pain is so bad it actually interferes with the things you want or need to do, the time may be right.

Hip replacement may be an option when nonsurgical interventions such as medication physical therapy, and the use of a cane or other walking aid no longer help alleviate the pain. Other possible signs include: aching in the joint, followed by periods of relative relief; pain after extensive use; loss of mobility; loss of sleep; joint stiffness after periods of inactivity or rest; and/or pain that seems to increase in humid weather.

Your primary care doctor may refer you to an orthopedic surgeon who will help you determine when/if it’s time for hip surgery and which type of hip surgery is most appropriate. Your surgeon may decide that hip replacement surgery is not appropriate if you have an infection, do not have enough bone, or the bone is not strong enough to support an artificial hip.

Doctors generally try to delay total hip replacement for as long as possible in favor of less invasive treatments. If you have advanced joint disease, hip replacement may offer the chance for relief from pain and a return to normal activities.

How common are hip replacements?

For the past 40 years, millions of people who have suffered from hip pain and arthritis have experienced relief and restored mobility through total hip replacement. In fact, hip replacement and revision surgeries are routine and are performed on nearly one million people worldwide each year.

How do I get a diagnosis?

To diagnose your condition, an orthopedic surgeon will perform a thorough examination of your hip, analyze X-rays, and conduct physical tests. You will be asked to describe your pain, if you suffer from other joint pain, and if you have endured past injuries that may have affected your current hip condition. It may be helpful to keep a record of your hip pain to share with your doctor. Your hip joint will then be tested for strength and range of motion through a series of activities. X-rays of your hip joint will indicate any change in size or shape, or any unusual circumstances. MRIs are used to detect early stages of disease.

Signs that it might be time for a hip replacement:

  • Your pain persists or recurs over time
  • Your hip aches during and after exercise
  • You’re no longer as mobile as you’d like to be
  • Medication and using a cane aren’t delivering enough relief
  • Your hip stiffens up from sitting in a car or a movie theater
  • You feel pain in rainy weather
  • The pain prevents you from sleeping
  • You feel a decrease in hip motion or the degree to which you’re able to bend
  • Your hip is stiff or swollen
  • You have difficulty walking or climbing stairs
  • You have difficulty getting in and out of chairs and bathtubs
  • You experience morning stiffness that typically lasts less than 30 minutes (as opposed to stiffness lasting longer than 45 minutes, a sign of an inflammatory condition called rheumatoid arthritis)
  • You feel a “grating” of your joint
  • You’ve had a previous injury to your hip


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