Is Hip Pain an “Old Person’s” Problem?
Hip pain can be a terribly debilitating condition that affects every facet of normal living. Simple things like walking, sitting and lying down can be daunting tasks when hip pain strikes.
Most people think that hip pain only affects the elderly. This, however, is far from the truth in modern times. The kind of inactive lifestyles that the majority of people lead today have detrimental effects on physical health.
Combined with mental stress of work and social life, this kind of lifestyle takes its toll well before natural aging steps in to stake its claim on a person’s physical well-being.
Hip pain is no longer (and possibly never was) an “old person’s” problem. Studies show that even teenagers are prone to hip trouble, although the root causes might be different from the typical age-related reasons, such as arthritis or natural wear and tear.
Hip problems in younger people are now thought to be primarily the result of hip deformations called dysplasia. This is a condition where the hip socket is either shallow or orientated in the wrong direction.
That Scary Thing Called Hip Replacement Surgery
Surgery is a dreaded word for most people. Going under the knife, as it is called, can be a traumatic experience for the mind – not to mention the body itself. When they think of surgery, most people associate it with long hospital stays, painful recuperation and being scarred for life – and doesn’t even begin to cover their fears about hospital and medication bills that can run into tens of thousands of dollars.
The choice to undergo surgery is an extremely personal one even though it may be the only chance at a normal life. There are surgery support groups that help people get to a point where they can make the decision, and professionals are more than willing to give comfort through genuine information about the safety of the various procedures; however, the fact remains that surgery of any kind is still a risky procedure.
Hip replacement surgery is essentially of two types: full hip replacement and partial replacement. In addition, resurfacing of the hip joint can also be done. Depending on the severity of the condition, the surgeon may recommend any one of these procedures. In the bygone days of hip replacement surgery, the procedure was only recommended for those over the age of 60.
Today, however, the procedures are much more advanced and the artificial parts can handle more stress than ever before.Because of these improvements, the procedures are now recommended regularly for younger people with active lifestyles.
The Surgery Choice: Total or Partial?
As mentioned, your specific condition will determine what kind of hip replacement surgery is best for you. Your surgeon will describe the condition to you in as much detail as you want, and recommend the best course of action based on his or her diagnosis. It is then up to you, as the patient, to make a choice based on the options you have been given.
At this point, you are entitled to a second opinion, and your surgeon may refer you to another expert like himself. You can either go with the second opinion or decide based on the first diagnosis and treatment recommendation.
Partial replacement involves removing the femoral head, or the “ball” part of the ball and socket hip joint, and replacing it with a prosthetic material that essentially takes its place in terms of function. The process, called hemiarthroplasty, is typically recommended in cases of fractures and other types of trauma.
It is not usually recommended for degenerative causes such as arthritis, where the entire joint is replaced with prosthesis. Even for fractures, only those with Grade 4 sub-capital fractures (fractures involving the portion just below the femoral ball) are usually recommended to go in forhemiarthroplasty. The other three grades of fracture can usually be treated like other fractures – with pins and nailing devices – because they do not compromise the joint itself.
Total hip replacement involves replacing both the femoral ball as well as the acetabulum – the “socket”. Surgery of this type is recommended in most degenerative conditions where both the ball and the socket have been damaged. Arthritis, osteoarthritis and osteonecrosis are just three of the conditions for which total hip replacement are usually recommended.
Up and Running: Normalcy after Surgery
One of the reasons people are averse to hip replacement is that they are unsure of their return to normalcy after the surgery and subsequent recovery. It is also the biggest source of concern for those who have opted for surgery.
Questions like “how soon can I walk again?”, “when will the recovery be complete?” and “will I be able to resume my active lifestyle?” are just a few that plague potential surgery candidates.
Recovery after hip replacement is categorized as short-term and long-term. Short-term recovery essentially involves being able to walk with minimal or no walking aids. It also means discontinuing prescription medication and switching to OTC (over-the-counter) drugs to manage the pain.
The first couple of days are when most patients are encouraged to get out of bed and stand and walk with the help of a walker. By the third day, they are usually ready to be discharged from the hospital and continue their recovery process at home. Full short-term recovery usually happens in about 10 to 12 weeks from the date of the surgery.
Long-term recovery refers to complete normalcy of movement and absence of pain in the hip joint that has been replaced. Though the actual duration varies from person to person, the average time for long-term recovery is about 6 months.
During that time, the patient will be able to start living life normally once again, gradually start resuming their physical activities, start going to work again and generally begin to feel the first winds of positive change in their lives. This is also a time for periodic consultations with the surgeon, who will assess the extent and progress of recovery until compete normalcy is achieved.