Signs You May Need a Hip Replacement

Learn what causes hip pain and find out if joint replacement surgery may be right for you

Dr. Anna Kulidjian, Orthopedic Surgeon, Scripps Clinic standing in front of a computer with a hip x-ray on the screen.

Dr. Anna Kulidjian, Orthopedics, Scripps Clinic

Learn what causes hip pain and find out if joint replacement surgery may be right for you

If severe hip pain or stiffness makes it hard for you to work, play or even sleep, you’re not alone. Chronic hip pain is a growing problem; as we age, so do our joints. 

For many people, hip replacement surgery is the best way to overcome pain and return to normal activities. If your doctor recommends a hip replacement, you can take comfort knowing that modern surgical techniques and improved implants make the procedure safer and more effective than ever before — often with minimal downtime. 

What causes hip pain?

Chronic hip pain is often caused by:

  • Arthritis — Both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis can cause swelling and inflammation of the hip joint that becomes worse over time. 
  • Hip fractures — Sports, falls, trauma or repetitive activities that put stress on the hips can lead to a break in the thigh bone.
  • Hip impingement — This abnormal wearing of the hip ball-and-socket joint causes a bony “bump” to form along the end of the hip, resulting in friction that can damage the joint and limit activity.

Who may benefit from hip replacement surgery?

The most common reason for a hip replacement is osteoarthritis, which can wear away the cartilage in the hip joint. As your cartilage breaks down, you feel the pain of your bones scraping against each other.

“Some patients have pre-disposing anatomic and biologic conditions that make them wear out their joints. Some have trauma. Some have arthritis in all their joints — it’s just an aging of the cartilage,” explains Anna Kulidjian, MD, a Scripps Clinic orthopedic surgeon. “Others are born with dysplasia, and their hip doesn’t fit very well — like a square peg in a round hole. Those people will wear out their hips faster because they’ll have early arthritis.”

While it used to be that hip replacement surgery wasn’t recommended before age 65 because of the risk of wearing out the implant, that’s no longer an issue with more durable and long-lasting implants. 

When to see your doctor about hip pain treatment

No matter what your age, Dr. Kulidjian recommends seeing an orthopedic specialist earlier rather than later.

“If people are having groin pain and stiffness that’s limiting their ability to do what they want to do, that’s when to see a doctor,” she says. “There could be nonsurgical or less-invasive things to do to prevent degeneration. The earlier that conversation is started, the better to prevent people from having difficulty doing things they enjoy. It’s important to understand that it’s part of your overall well-being.”

San Diego Health March 2021 Issue

This content appeared in San Diego Health, a publication in partnership between Scripps and San Diego Magazine that celebrates the healthy spirit of San Diego.

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