Hip Replacement: Why and How It Can Improve the Damaged Hips?

Updated on April 21st, 2020
hip replacement

The hip is a unique region of the body that is extremely strong and flexible. It plays a significant role in movements, bearing weight, supporting the upper body, and connecting the upper & lower parts of the body. The hip joint is one of the crucial parts of the hip region, which is a ball-like socket that is present in the area where the thigh bone meets the pelvis.

Parts and Functions of the Hip Joint

The hip joint capsule is firm and fibrous but also is roomy, which helps in carrying a wide range of movements. The essential function of the hip joint is to bear the weight. Various aspects help the joint in stabilizing and managing the weight. They are also crucial in supporting the body during standing, walking, running, maintaining balance, and preventing any damage due to stress or pressure in the hips.

Acetabulum, an essential part of the hip joint, encompasses most of the femur head and reduces the probability of slipping out or dislocation of the head. A horseshoe-shaped ring around it, known as the acetabular labrum, improves the stability of the joint.

There are anterior ligaments and posterior ligaments around the hip joint that provide additional support to the hip joints. These ligaments work together in preventing hyperextension, excess rotation, limits lateral movement, and reduces stress on the hip joints.

The hip joints also contain muscles that work with ligaments that support the body and reduce any wear and tear or damage during the movements.

Below listed are a few such moves of the legs and hips supported by the hip joints:

  • Abduction: Sideways movement of the legs away from the body
  • Adduction: Inward movement of the legs towards the body
  • Internal rotation: Inward rotation of the legs
  • External rotation: Outward rotation of the legs
  • Flexion: Upward stretching of the legs
  • Extension: Backward stretching of the legs

What Damages the Hip Joints?

A healthy hip joint can endure minor amounts of wear and tear. However, some health conditions, infections, or injuries can damage the hip joint beyond its capability. In such cases, a partial or a total hip replacement may be the only option to bring back the hip joint close to normal.

Below listed are a few things that may damage the hip joints.(1)

Osteoarthritis:

Damages the supporting cartilage, which makes the bones rub together, causing the wearing of the hip that results in pain and stiffness.

Rheumatoid Arthritis:

Irritates the lining of the joint and also damages the cartilage, which can also lead to pain and stiffness.

Traumatic Arthritis:

Damage to the hip joints due to fracture or injuries.

Old age is also one of the most common factors that may cause wear and tear which may require hip replacement.

Other Causes of Hip Joint Problems:

  • Inflammation or irritation of the sacs and tendons
  • Chronic stress or pressure on the hips and hip joints
  • Temporary or permanent loss of blood to the hips
  • Dislocation or fracture due to injuries or blows
  • Damage to the blood vessels, nerves, or muscles that support hip

The symptoms associated with these problems of hips and hip joints are easily visible. They usually occur in and around the hips and are as the following:

  • Swelling or soreness
  • Redness or warmth
  • Stiffness in the hip region
  • Chronic pain in the hip region
  • Discomfort in the thighs, groin or buttocks
  • Pain in the inside or outside of the hip joint

Signs You Need a Hip Replacement

If the person ignores the hip problems, it can cause various complications that may permanently damage the hips and the surrounding areas. When these conditions become worse, it may give further signs that may alarm for hip surgery.

They are:

  • Chronic pain in the hip region
  • Acute pain during physical activity
  • Extreme stiffness in hip joints
  • Visual inflammation of the hips
  • Difficulty in bending or sitting
  • Pain in the back, knees, or spine
  • Severe pain that may make it hard to rest or sleep
  • X-rays that show hip bones touching together

In general, if the condition is minor, surgeons or doctors may suggest some alternatives to hip replacement. They are:

  • Medications

To enrich the body so that it can fight any infections, inflammations, or health conditions that may be damaging the hips.

  • Physical Therapy

Restoring the flexibility or mobility by reducing the stiffness that may be the result of blocked blood vessels or twisted muscles, tendons, or ligaments.

  • Weight Loss

In some cases, obesity or overweight can put extra stress on the hips, which may wear or tear the hip joints. Hence the doctor may suggest weight-loss therapies to alleviate the impact and restore the normality of the hip joints.

However, in some cases, such as grave injury or severe damage, hip replacement may be the only option.

In the hip replacement surgery, the surgeon cuts or makes an incision on the front or side of the hip. They then remove the damaged or diseased bone and cartilage. Later, they replace those parts with prosthetics.

Depending on the severity and area of the damage, they may perform a partial or total hip replacement.

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Hip Replacement Recovery

Hip replacement recovery time depends on the type of surgery, health condition, age, and the body’s response to the operation.

The day after the operation or even on the same day, as the medications ward off, a physical therapist may start the recovery process. They help in developing exercises and other techniques that can strengthen the hip muscles, bones, and also improve flexibility. The initial tasks involve sitting and standing from the edge of the bed. After two or three days of the surgery, depending on the body’s response, the therapists may suggest walking with the help of crutches.

After showing positive results, the doctors may allow you to go home. However, you are not allowed to drive vehicles, lift any weights, or put any stress on your hips at least for the first three to six weeks.

Physical therapy: After going home, a physical therapist may suggest some exercises or physical therapies that can enhance the recovery process.

hip replacement recovery
Image:Shutterstock

The treatment can help in:

  • Improving the blood flow to the hip region
  • Nurturing and strengthening of hip bones and muscles
  • Developing the ability to walk or do other chores at home
  • Reducing stiffness and promoting flexibility

For pain: During physical therapy, there may be some pain. Using medications prescribed by the doctor can be helpful.

The person can also use a warm compress to loosen the joints and cold compress to reduce the inflammation.

Total Hip Replacement Precautions

As mentioned above, the recovery time may vary from person to person. However, there are some additional precautionary measures that one must follow post-hip-replacement surgery.

Below listed are a few such measures:

  • Do not do physical activities or exercises that are not recommended by the doctor or the therapist.
  • Do not lift weights or heavy manual laboring.
  • Do not sit or stand for too long.
  • Do not overstretch the knees or hips.
  • Do not bring knees higher than the hips.
  • Do not lean forward or bend down from your hips
  • You may wear a back or hip supporter suggested by the doctor or a therapist.
  • Do not run, jog, jump, or participate in any sports that require extensive running or stretching.
  • Should avoid excess stretching, yoga, gymming, or hiking unless approved by the doctor or a therapist.
  • Using a stool to put shoes or socks is advisable.
  • Avoid sitting cross-legged on the floor, at least in the initial days.
  • Avoid washing or applying any lotions, other than those recommended by the doctor around the region of surgery.
  • Avoid or cut the consumption of alcohol and quit smoking.

Prepare Your Environment at Home:

  • Make proper arrangements of your furniture so that they are in your hand’s reach or can move at ease with a cane, walker, or crutches.
  • Place your necessary items such as phones, glasses, remote controls, or medications on the table that is at your arm’s length and can take it without excessive stretching or bending.
  • Make sure that you always have a walker right by your bed.
  • Make sure to remove all the slippery items in your home.
  • Get a proper and comfortable chair and bed.
  • Keep the wounds clean and change the dressing as advised by doctors (Get it done by a professional expert).
  • If you see any infections or bleedings from the wounds, inform your doctor about it.
  • Create a healthy diet plan by consulting a doctor or a nutritional expert.
  • Take nutrient supplements that are recommended by the doctor (it will help in speeding up the recovery process).

Hip Replacement Exercises

Below listed are a few physical workouts that you may practice after checking with your doctor or a physical therapist.

1. Ankle Exercises

Lay down on your back, and slowly push your foot up and down. The other similar activity is inward and outward rotation of the feet.

You can have around five to ten sessions of these exercises three to five times a day.

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2. Bending Knees

bending knees
Image:Shutterstock

Lay on your back with your foot stretched straight in a comfortable position. With the heel touching the bed or the floor, slowly slide the foot towards the buttocks by bending the knee for five to ten seconds and then relax.

Repeat this for five to ten times and have around three to five of such sessions every day.

3. Sliding Legs

Slide your legs to the side as far as you feel a little stretch and to the point where you are comfortable.

Other Similar Exercises:

Straightening the knees: Tighten the leg muscles and straighten your knee. Hold for five seconds and relax. Repeat it for five to ten minutes.

After you become comfortable with this exercise, you can slowly start lifting your leg, hold it for five seconds and then release it slowly.

Standing Exercises

  • Once you become comfortable standing, you can practice these exercises.
  • Keep your knee straight, lift your leg, and stretch it to the sides and slowly bring it back to the floor.
  • Lift your leg with a straight knee and gently move it back and forth.
  • You can have a session of these exercises for five minutes in the initial stages and at least three to five times a day.

After a few weeks or months of the surgery, when you recover mostly and are able to walk without any support, you may slowly start advancing the exercise techniques.

Complications With Hip Replacement

With the advanced medical technology, there are few to none complications in most of the hip replacement surgeries. However, in some cases, the person may experience specific conditions that may affect them post-surgery. They are:

1. Blood Clots

They may form in legs or around hips after the surgery. However, doctors will check for such conditions and prescribe blood-thinning medications.

2. Infections

There may be infections at the site of the cut or in the deeper tissues. Antibiotics can help in controlling it. However, if the infections are too deep or around the prosthetics, then they might suggest another round of surgery. Here they may remove the infections and also replace the prosthetics.

3. Fractures or Dislocations of Hip Joints

It may occur during surgery, or in some rare cases, it may also happen post-surgery. The doctors can fix it with wires, screws, or some metal plates.

4. Abnormal Length

The surgery or the hip replacement may make one hip shorter or longer than the other one. It does not cause significant pain and can improve over time with strengthening or stretching of the muscles. In slim cases, it can also affect the spine or back region.

5. Loosening

However, it is infrequent, but not following the precautionary measures or due to some other conditions, the implants may become loose. Here, the surgeon may suggest another surgery to fix it.

6. Muscle or Nerve Damage

In very rare cases, the surgery may cause some damage to the nerves or muscles, which can cause numbness or pain. The doctor can help fix it through medications.

Bottom Line

Hips or hip joints may experience some wear and tear for various conditions. Age can be one of the factors. High-intensity sports that involve running, long-jumping, or constant pressure on the hips may damage the hip joints.

In the initial stages where the damage is minimal, alternative therapies or treatments can help in recovering. But, if the condition becomes chronic or severe where it disables mobility and wrecks everyday life, hip replacement may become the only option.


FAQs

1. How Long Does Hip Replacement Surgery Take?

Hip replacement surgery takes around 1 to 2 hours in general. However, if there is more damage or any complications in the hip, it may take longer.

2. How Long Does a Hip Replacement Last?

Hip replacement may last for around 15 years, depending on age, health condition, and the level of physical activity.

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