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Should You See a Doctor About Your Hip Pain?

The hip joint, the body's largest ball-and-socket joint, connects the thigh bone (femur) to the pelvis. As the hip joint supports your full body weight when walking or running, the femur sits very deeply in the socket, supported by a soft cushion of cartilage and strong ligaments to aid in stabilization. Because this joint is used so frequently through daily activity, hip pain, stiffness and popping noises can be common complaints, especially for adults older than 50.

If you experience hip pain when you walk, it can indicate various conditions, including osteoarthritis, bursitis, tendinitis or a labral tear. If you have these conditions, you may notice that your hip pain increases with activities such as walking and running. You may also experience stiffness and swelling in your hip and difficulty moving your hip joint.

If your pain is in the hip joint, it will likely feel more prominent on the inside of your hip or in your groin area. It may be time to schedule an appointment with a doctor at Eastern New Mexico Medical Group in Roswell, NM, if you don't see any improvement in your hip pain within a week or two of treating it with rest, ice, compression and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications.

Treatment may involve medications to reduce inflammation and manage pain, physical therapy to improve flexibility and strength, or in more serious cases, hip surgery.

Should you talk with a doctor about your hip pain? Take our free joint pain quiz or download an orthopedic guide to find out.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is osteoarthritis? Does it cause hip pain?

Osteoarthritis, or arthritis affecting the joints, is the most common form of arthritis. This degenerative joint disease affects more than 32.5 million people in the U.S. and is characterized by the deterioration of cartilage or the soft tissue breakdown between the joints.

Many people who have chronic hip pain and stiffness presume they are "just getting old" or have stiffness they must endure because of previous injuries. However, hip pain can be caused by osteoarthritis. This chronic disease thins the hip joint's cartilage and narrows the space in which the hip joint moves, causing inflammation, pain, stiffness and swelling. It is the most common cause of hip pain for older adults. Over time, the pain can worsen, eventually limiting the ability to move from sitting to standing. As a result, some struggle to walk or complete normal daily activities.

Treatment for osteoarthritis usually includes a combination of therapies, including muscle strengthening exercises, physical therapy, weight loss, anti-inflammatory medications and supportive devices, such as a walker or cane. If nonsurgical treatments fail to provide relief, joint replacement surgery, such as a total hip replacement, may be a good option to reduce severe discomfort and improve the range of motion.

However, other causes of joint pain are genetics, injury, obesity and sports, so it's important to talk to an orthopedic specialist about your condition to determine a diagnosis and next steps.

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What is minimally invasive joint replacement surgery?

Minimally invasive joint replacement surgery, or an anterior approach, is an orthopedic procedure that can treat pain, stiffness and disability caused by various joint-related problems. The benefits of minimally invasive joint replacement surgery include a shorter recovery time, less pain, less risk of infection and reduced scarring than traditional, open surgery.

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What happens during a total hip replacement?

During a total hip replacement, an incision is made on the side of the hip. The surgeon detaches the hip muscles, allowing the hip to dislocate the ball from its socket to inspect the damage. The surgeon removes the damaged ball bone and replaces it with a metal or ceramic ball anchored by a metal stem inserted directly into the thigh bone. Then, the surgeon prepares the socket to receive a metal implant. Finally, the surgeon inserts a plastic, ceramic or metal spacer between the new ball and socket to help ensure the surfaces smoothly glide together.

Patients generally begin walking the same day or the day after surgery. For patients who are healthy enough, surgery can be an outpatient procedure, which does not require an overnight stay in the hospital. Your doctor can help you determine if you might be a candidate for an outpatient hip replacement.

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What happens during a partial hip replacement?

In a partial hip replacement, the ball of the joint is replaced like a total hip replacement, but the socket is left intact. This procedure is typically performed when there is only damage to the ball or neck of the femur, but no damage is present in the socket.

While there are ways to ease joint pain with conservative, nonsurgical methods, treatments for degenerative diseases can be costly. If those approaches prove ineffective, however, joint replacement surgery can significantly lower discomfort, reducing your need for pain relievers and other joint pain treatments.

Curious to know more about hip pain treatment options, including surgery? Watch a 15-minute, on-demand seminar online that covers understanding hip pain treatment options, how joint replacement surgery works and indicators that hip joint replacement surgery could be right for you. You can also request an appointment with an orthopedic specialist.

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How long does it take to recover from a total hip replacement?

The time frame for recovery varies depending on the individual, the type of procedure performed and the rehabilitation needed after surgery. Generally, it takes four to six weeks to return to light activities and eight to 12 weeks to return to full activity. Following your surgeon's instructions during recovery, including adhering to all prescribed activities and exercises, is important.

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What is the success rate for hip replacements?

The success rate of hip replacements 10 years after surgery is 90% to 95% and up to 85% after 20 years. However, a 2019 study in The Lancet found that hip replacements in 58% of patients lasted 25 years.

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Patient results may vary. Consult your physician about the benefits and risks of any surgical procedures or treatment.

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