What do Billy Joel and Jane Fonda have in common? While we know it isn’t their hair, it may surprise you to learn that both the entertainer and the sovereign of spandex suffered from hip pain and eventually had hip replacement surgeries. In fact, if you are one of the millions of Americans battling daily stiffness and discomfort in your hip joint you are part of an esteemed group including Ray Charles, Steve Carrell, Lionel Richie, Elizabeth Taylor, Mike Krzyzewski (Coack K) and even Van Halen.
But while misery loves company, we know you would prefer to be grouped among the pain-free. A hip replacement surgery eased the pain for these famous folk, but there are a variety of treatment approaches to increase your mobility and get you feeling like a movie star.
At Intermountain Healthcare we work with you to understand your unique case and determine a personalized treatment plan.
Imagine you are preparing fresh guacamole with a mortar and pestle. As the pestle works the avocado it gets softer and breaks down until the pestle is actually grinding against the mortar. This is similar to hip joint pain (except hip joint issues don’t make you want to grab a tortilla chip). The joint of your hip sits in your pelvis like the pestle sits in the mortar or bowl. It is cushioned by tissue called cartilage, or the avocado in this case. Over time, this cartilage wears down until the joint is rubbing directly against the bone, causing pain.
This condition of cartilage disappearing is also called osteoarthritis. Nearly one-quarter of adults in the U.S. will be diagnosed with hip arthritis at some point in their lifetime according to the CDC.
A handful of other factors may also contribute to chronic hip pain. The greatest offender is weight gain, and in some cases losing a bit of weight can relieve the stress and pain on your hip.
“If you've been having pain for a long time, the next thing to do depends on what you've done so far,” says Dr. Robert Andruss, a surgeon at Southwest Orthopedics in St. George. “When I see patients in my office, frequently they've had pain for years, but they've never tried anything. We start at the beginning because it may just be a couple of doses of Tylenol a day and you can live your life the way you want to live it.”
Anti-inflammatories, including Acetaminophen (Tylenol), Ibuprofen (Advil), and Naproxen (Aleve) can reduce pain and swelling, making it easier to move around. These are a great option as you can take them wherever you are and whenever you need them.
If over-the-counter medications don’t seem to be cutting it, the next step is an injection. An injection containing a steroid or lubricating material like hyaluronic acid is administered with an anesthetic to provide pain relief that can last up to several months. Yes, it does involve a needle that is slightly larger than the one used for your flu shot, but the tradeoff may be months of mobility and relief.
“If it becomes more intense, many patients will come see us for a time-honored, well-studied, and effective anti-inflammatory treatment, which is a corticosteroid injection, sometimes called a cortisone shot,” says Dr. Leitze, another of Southwest Orthopedics’s expert surgeons. “Those are intended to be temporary measures to take away pain and inflammation and often allow a patient to participate in another important part of non-surgical treatment for arthritis—physical therapy activities.”
Dr. Leitze explains that physical therapy can be as simple as just a group of specific exercises, strengthening, and stretching methods that can keep joints mobile. Physical therapy can be used by itself to build muscle to support joints and lessen pain, or in combination with other treatments.
“With arthritis, stiffness and pain are hallmarks of the condition,” says Dr. Leitze. “And one of the things that the therapy activities can combat is the stiffness and some weakness that might come from disuse.”
Hip Replacement Surgery
If you have tried pills, therapies, and injections and your hip still feels stiffer than an Oscar statuette, it may be time to talk to an orthopedic specialist about a hip replacement.
“When you are considering hip replacement surgery,” says Dr. Andruss, “you want to have maximized your medical treatments and your non-operative treatments. Then, when you can't do life the way you like to do life with the level of comfort that works for you, whether that's golf, pickleball, going for a walk with your spouse, or walking the dogs through the hills, that's the time to think about hip replacement surgery.”
What happens in hip replacement surgery?
During hip replacement surgery, or hip arthroplasty, a qualified surgeon replaces the damaged hip joint with an artificial joint, usually made of metal, ceramic, or plastic. The board-certified surgeons at Intermountain Healthcare are experts in performing successful hip replacement procedures, using state-of-the art equipment and advanced techniques.
There are several different approaches in hip replacement surgery, depending on the location and size of the incision. Your Intermountain surgeon will know which type will work best for you.
Recovery takes a few months, during which you will meet with a physical therapist and be monitored for blood clots. But according to Lionel Richie, afterwards you will feel like a “bionic” man and be ready to dance on the ceiling all night long.