Hip Arthritis: Secrets to Treatment

Christina Lasich, MD Health Pro April 08, 2010
  • Since reading about how hip arthritis is diagnosed, you now know that the leg bone is connected to the hip bone and that hip joint pain is felt in the groin. Let’s turn our attention to the treatment of hip arthritis. Some might want to jump right into joint replacement surgery; however, there are many non-surgical steps to take before a slamming a new joint into place. Remember, changing out a body part is not as simple as fixing a car. Replacing a bad alternator on a car does not require hospitalization, anesthesia, pain control, and months of rehabilitation. No, replacing a bad alternator is just a two hour job with no risks and no prolonged recovery. Furthermore, after hip replacement surgery, you cannot just “drive” off with a guarantee of a perfect joint with unlimited capabilities. With this realization in mind, exploring the non-surgical treatments of hip arthritis is worthwhile along the road to a big joint surgery.

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    When the hip joint starts to hurt while walking, the first item to grab is a cane. Oh no! Not the “C” word! All right, call it a walking stick, a trekking stick, or a wizard’s staff if you like. No matter what it is called, this assistive device can take a tremendous load off the hip joint. The key is to use it in the proper hand. For left hip arthritis, the “stick” should be used in the right hand. For right hip arthritis, the “stick” should be used in the left hand. By using the “stick” on the opposite side, the weight of the body can be partially supported by the “stick," instead of the body weight being fully supported by the painful limb during the “mid-stance” phase of gait.

     

    The “mid-stance” phase of gait is the time during which the entire body weight is supported on a single limb while the other limb swings through. When standing on the one leg, this left/right, right/left strategy also helps to maintain a level pelvic brim and reduces the tendency for the hip to pinch inward. If you need help learning how to use your “wizard’s staff” for treating hip arthritis, please consult with your local physical therapist.

     
    While you are at the physical therapist, you also might want to learn some butt strengthening exercises. The butt muscles help to support the pelvis while walking. Weak butt muscles lead to waddling as the pelvis gyrates from side to side. This gyration places a lot of extra stress and extra movement on an already worn out hip joint. Stronger muscles lead to less waddling and less stress on not only the hips, but also the ankles, knees, and back. Overall, non-surgical treatment of hip arthritis is most successful by easing as much stress off the arthritic joint as possible. 


    Another secret to easing stress off the hip joint is to place a pillow between your knees while sleeping on your side. Side-sleeping causes the knees to press together; thus, the top leg is placed in an adducted, possibly internally rotated position. This leg position is the most painful position for an arthritic hip joint. With strategic pillow use, a neutral, supported body posture can be successfully maintained. Improved postures can ease joint pain and help you avoid surgery.


  • Without easing the stress off an arthritic hip joint, other non-surgical options are less likely to be successful like injections, medications, and supplements. Without taking care of a joint, then a replacement surgery will be needed sooner rather than later. But before accepting the risk of a big joint surgery, try some other options like the canes, the exercises, and the pillows because these options far less risky. Even if you do eventually have the joint replaced, you are still going to have to take care of that new joint, maybe with assistive devices, definitely with exercises for muscle support, and hopefully with improved body mechanics around the clock. Ultimately, you cannot avoid the need for proper care of your hip joint, and the rest of your body.

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