What Are Alternatives to Hip Replacement?
Before considering a total hip replacement, the doctor may try other methods of treatment, such as exercise, walking aids, and medication. An exercise program can strengthen the muscles around the hip joint. Walking aids such as canes and walkers may alleviate some of the stress from painful, damaged hips and help you to avoid or delay surgery.
For hip pain without inflammation, doctors usually recommend the analgesic medication acetminophen (Tylenol ).
For hip pain with inflammation, treatment usually consists of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs. Some common NSAIDs are aspirin and ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil). If you need to take NSAIDs on a long-term basis or at doses that are higher than those obtainable over the counter, you should do so only under a doctor's supervision. When neither NSAIDs nor analgesics are sufficient to relieve pain, doctors sometimes recommend combining the two. Again, this should be done only under a doctor's supervision.
In some cases, a stronger analgesic medication such as tramadol or a product containing both acetaminophen and a narcotic analgesic such as codeine may be necessary to control pain.
Topical analgesic products such as capsaicin and methylsalicylate may provide additional relief. Some people find that the nutritional supplement combination of glucosamine and chondroitin helps ease pain. People taking nutritional supplements, herbs, and other complementary and alternative medicines should inform their doctors to avoid harmful drug interactions.
In a small number of cases, doctors may prescribe corticosteroid medications, such as prednisone or cortisone, if NSAIDs do not relieve pain. Corticosteroids reduce joint inflammation and are frequently used to treat rheumatic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. The downside of corticosteroids is that they can cause further damage to the bones in the joint. Also, they carry the risk of side effects such as increased appetite, weight gain, and lower resistance to infections. A doctor must prescribe and monitor corticosteroid treatment. Because corticosteroids alter the body's natural hormone production, which is essential for the body to function, you should not stop taking them suddenly, and you should follow the doctor's instructions for discontinuing treatment.
Sometimes, corticosteroids are injected into the hip joint. A joint lubricant such as Hyaluronan may also be injected into the hip joint to relieve pain.
If exercise and medication do not relieve pain and improve joint function, the doctor may suggest a less complex corrective surgery before proceeding to hip replacement. One common alternative to hip replacement is an osteotomy. This procedure involves cutting and realigning bone, to shift the weight from a damaged and painful bone surface to a healthier one. Recovery from an osteotomy takes 6 to 12 months. Afterward, the function of the hip joint may continue to worsen and additional treatment may be needed. The length of time before another surgery is needed varies greatly and depends on the condition of the joint before the procedure.
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