It hurts when you walk, when you get in and out of a chair, and when you lean over to put on your shoes. Your hip may even hurt when you're just sitting or lying down.
More than 300,000 people have complete hip replacement surgeries in the U.S. every year. About 90% of them feel better and can get back to normal activities months, or even weeks, after surgery.
"The happiest patients you have are total hip replacement patients," says orthopedic surgeon Claudette Lajam, MD, of the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City. "It's like pulling a bad tooth. Almost immediately, people feel better."
But that doesn't mean hip replacement surgery is for everyone.
When to Consider Hip Replacement Surgery
Here's what you and your doctor should talk about to decide if hip replacement surgery is right for you:
- Pain, swelling, and stiffness. If your hip hurts when you walk, climb stairs, or do other daily things, that's a sign you might need a new hip. Your hip may ache at night or even when you're resting. You should think about surgery if you've had the pain for a while and it rarely eases up with nonsurgical treatments.
- Other treatments didn't help. Surgery shouldn't be your first option. "Most patients have tried simpler things along the way before they end up opting for surgery," says orthopedic surgeon David Lewallen, MD, at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester. That may include anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen or naproxen, cortisone shots, physical therapy, and crutches or walkers.
- Bone damage or deformity. Have you noticed that your leg is bowed, or has a doctor found bone damage in your joint? "Those deformities are red flags for the doctor," Lajam says. "That's when the doctor says, 'I don’t know if you're doing yourself a favor by waiting.' The worse the deformity gets, the harder it is to fix it."
- Quality of life. If constant pain affects your daily activities and mood, it may be time for surgery. "It's when there's an inability to do the things you want to do," Lajam says. "It's when you can't live your life."
When You Should Think Twice
In some cases, hip replacement surgery may not be the best choice:
- Infections. If you’ve had a recent infection you’ll need to get it treated before surgery. For example, don’t put off dental care for gum and teeth infections. Taking care of this will lower the chance of infection in your new joint, which is a serious problem that can lead to more surgery.
- Other health concerns. You may be more likely to have trouble after surgery if you have a history of heart or lung problems, diabetes, or blood clots. Your doctor will want to get other health issues under control before deciding to operate. He may also suggest you lose weight or quit smoking.
- Unsure of hip pain cause. "Hip pain could actually be coming from back pain or very bad knee issues," Lajam says. To make sure pain is really coming from your hip, your surgeon can numb the area. "Is the pain gone? If not, you probably don’t have the right spot."