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The hip joint is incredibly important in the movement of the body and controls a wide-range of movements, including stretching and bending. It also supports the upper body during walking, running and standing. The joint is one of the largest in the body and consists of a ball and socket. Ligaments connect the joint and are lubricated to reduce friction and a tissue known as cartilage supports the joint, preventing the bones from rubbing together.
Many people suffer from hip pain due to injury. However, arthritis also causes problems for the hip joint and there are two common types: Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis is one of the most common reasons for a hip replacement and is generally caused by wear and tear, as the cartilage inside the hip joint is worn away to leave only bone on bone. In rheumatoid arthritis the immune system attacks the lining of the joint which causes pain and stiffness.
There are a number of medications which can be used to help control pain and inflammation in the hip. The effectiveness of these treatments depends on the cause of the pain, but the range of medications includes steroid injections and anti-inflammatory drugs. Disease-modifying medication which tackles the immune system can help with hip pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis. Physiotherapy can make a real difference in many instances as it eases symptoms by helping to strengthen the muscles around the joint. It is particularly helpful post-operation and plays an important role in rehabilitation.
There are a range of surgical procedures which can help to tackle common hip problems:
This is often seen as an alternative to a hip replacement as it is less invasive. The upper surfaces of the femur (thigh bone) and the cavity in the pelvis where the femur sits are removed and replaced by metal surfaces. This isn’t an option for women who have been through the menopause or people aged over 65 as it requires fairly strong bones.
This is normally used to treat an impinged hip. A key-hole technique is adopted to correct damaged cartilage. In some cases it is successful in preventing osteoarthritis from developing.
A replacement is considered after other treatments have failed to show any improvement. The damaged or worn out joint is replaced by an artificial one. The procedure generally takes an hour to an hour and a half and it is usual to stay in hospital for up to seven days. Post-operation, sticks or crutches are needed for a fortnight plus and physiotherapy is often recommended, as it can be highly beneficial during the rehabilitation period. Artificial hips do wear out, but this will depend on the material used; your surgeon will be able to give expert advice to ensure you choose the best option for your individual circumstances.
This section is intended for information purposes only and should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.