The Hip Joint
Non-Surgical Management of the Problem Hip
Your doctor or surgeon is likely to advise you to rest your painful joint. This means modifying your exercise level (playing less golf, less tennis, doing less dancing, etc.). Hydrotherapy may be a good substitute. It allows you to exercise in water without putting much weight on your sore hip joint.
If your hip joint is painful, you will probably be prescribed analgesics or anti-inflammatory tablets. Another option is to apply a hot pack or heat lamp to the affected area, or a NSAID in gel form.
Before having your hip replaced, it may be worthwhile to have a physiotherapist assess the extent to which your symptoms can be reversed. In early stages of arthritis, non-surgical options are available for treating hip pain and stiffness. An experienced physiotherapist can significantly alter your pain pattern, pain intensity and joint stiffness to give you a better quality lifestyle, even if temporary. This may delay your surgery for a few years and, for some people, may avoid joint replacement altogether.
For this special kind of physiotherapy, the affected joint is moved in various ways in order to determine which movements most closely reproduce the pain you feel. The idea is to understand how to reproduce the pain so that movement can then be used as part of a treatment designed to decrease the pain.
This technique usually focuses on accessory movements. These are small extra movements that accompany a major movement such as bending at the hip.
The therapist needs to assess how "irritable" your sore joint is in order to determine how gentle or vigorous the treatment needs to be. If vigorous treatment is required, electrotherapy is sometimes used to reduce any resulting soreness.
Muscle stretching may be necessary if your muscles and/or tendons have become abnormally short as a result of poor walking technique or poor posture arising out of pain and stiffness. If muscle weakness is part of the picture, strengthening techniques can also be used.
As part of your non-surgical management, you will probably be given an appropriate walking aid to take the weight off your painful hip joint. This may be a walking stick, crutches, or a walking frame. A walking stick is correctly used in the hand opposite the sore hip. The goal is to regain a normal and symmetrical walking pattern.