At 66, supermodel Christie Brinkley had a successful hip replacement and was very public about her experience. She recently shared both her 12-year delay in pursuing hip replacement surgery and a positive perspective after her successful recovery.
While Brinkley’s fear of having surgery and positive outcome are both relatable, you don’t have to be a supermodel to feel the life-limiting impacts of chronic hip pain, nor should you generally wait 12 years to benefit from the real relief that hip replacement can bring.
If you’re living in pain, you already know how severely it can limit your ability to be independent and remain fit, two key factors in your long-term health. The is no one right time for hip replacement, and before you dive into a surgery plan, it’s important to know that there are many sources of hip pain and treatments that range from rest and ice to non-surgical injections, physical therapy, and other non-invasive treatments.
There are also surgical options that don’t involve full replacement of the hip and provide excellent results and minimal recovery time. It’s always best to consult with an orthopedic specialist and hip surgeon to fully understand the source of your hip pain and the recommended course of treatment for your symptoms and your goals.
For many people, the objective to relieve pain and improve the range of motion, strength, and stability is achievable, and various treatments can minimize or eliminate the impact of hip pain on your day-to-day life.
Common Causes of Hip Pain: Which require hip replacement?
The hip joint is one of the largest weight-bearing joints in the body and its ball-and-socket joint construction is held together by powerful ligaments, making it very durable. But even the strongest bones and joints are susceptible to trauma and fractures as well as wear and tear, arthritis, and other diseases.
The hip socket is lined with cartilage which, when healthy, cushions the joint and allows the bones to move smoothly without friction or pain. When that cartilage is damaged or deteriorates, the pain of bone-on-bone contact can be debilitating. Arthritis, age and overuse, or other diseases may cause inflammation that leads to tissue deterioration over time.
A hip labral tear or other damage to the cartilage can lead to bits of bone or cartilage collecting in the joint. In this scenario, a doctor may recommend arthroscopic debridement to remove the debris and repair any other damage.
Fractures and dislocations: A hip dislocation occurs when the thigh bone slips out of the hip socket. When this happens, it’s common for muscles, ligaments, other soft tissues and nerves to be damaged as well. An orthopedic surgeon will perform a procedure called a reduction to guide the bones back into position. Depending on the damage to other tissue, other repairs may be needed as well.
Hip fractures typically require surgery, using screws to stabilize the area, or a partial or total hip replacement depending on the severity of the fracture(s).
Types of Hip Replacement Surgery
Traditional total hip replacement accesses the hip joint via the back or side of the hip, requiring larger cuts to multiple tendons and muscles. A surgeon replaces damaged or diseased tissue with artificial (prosthetic) parts, which may be ceramic, metal, or plastic.
Traditional hip replacements require a patient to minimize their range of motion after surgery to support full recovery and avoid dislocation. A full recovery can take about six months. This procedure is highly effective and may be the right approach, depending on each patient’s circumstances.
Another option is a more minimally invasive procedure, called the anterior hip approach. In this scenario, a surgeon accesses the hip from the front of the body and avoids cutting major tendons or muscle groups, significantly reducing pain and recovery time. With this procedure, many people can get back to an active lifestyle as quickly as six weeks after the procedure and enjoy far fewer post-procedure restrictions.
Hip replacements can deliver great relief, but they also don’t last forever. As these procedures have continued to be more common, there is more data on how long a replacement remains successful. And as with all data, experiences vary person-to-person. Your lifestyle, age, and overall health are major contributors to your experience. When a total hip replacement does wear out or loosen in the bone, or for other rare circumstances, a revision hip replacement can be used. This is a slightly more complex procedure because the surgeon is dealing with less original tissue.
Some pain can be addressed with arthroscopic surgery, where your surgeon will make very small incisions and use a fiber-optic camera and surgical tools to repair a tear or remove damaged tissue or debris.
No matter what type of hip replacement or hip surgery you choose, physical therapy will likely be a key element of your recovery. Your surgeon is likely to recommend regular exercises that support your return to activity. These exercises will support strength, range of motion/mobility, and stability. Whether you complete them on your own at home or visit a physical therapist, it’s essential to make a commitment to complete whatever exercises your surgeon recommends to maximize your recovery.
Remember, surgery is typically the last option patients explore, but you don’t need to live in pain. Visit with one of our orthopedic hip specialists to obtain a proper diagnosis and find the best solution for you.