How to Recognize the Early Warning Signs of Needing a Hip Replacement

How to Recognize the Early Warning Signs of Needing a Hip Replacement
March 22 17:59 2015 Print This Article

Hip Replacement1By Wanda Marie Thibodeaux

Not everyone with hip problems will need hip replacement surgery, but many individuals will. These strategies will help you figure out early on if you’ll need the operating room.


1)      Monitor your level of pain.

When a hip first begins to deteriorate, pain is usually minimal, as inflammation and grinding within the joint is not as severe. Your pain might not be present through the whole day, and you’ll probably be able to control it with over-the-counter medications. Over time, however, the pain likely will intensify and interfere with your quality of life. If your discomfort is keeping you from sleeping, isn’t relieved with non-prescription drugs, is particularly troubling during and after exercise and never seems to go away, a hip replacement might be in order. Keeping a log of your pain level for several weeks might help you and your doctor decide whether you’ve reached the point where hip surgery is the best option.


2)      Check for stiffness.

Healthy hips respond readily when you ask them to shift, moving easily through their complete range of motion. If you need a replacement, though, you’ll experience a high degree of stiffness that might make it hard to do routine tasks, such as getting in and out of your bathtub or climbing stairs. Most people find that the stiffness and lack of flexibility is worst after sitting for long periods of time and upon waking first thing in the morning. Your doctor can perform simple tests such as measuring how high or far out you can move to determine how limited your mobility truly has become.


3)      Be aware of how your clothes fit.

Hip ReplacementHips that are in need of replacement typically experience some swelling, as the body’s inflammatory response means more blood is sent to the area to help it heal. You might find that clothes that once were comfortable now feel a bit tight or compress you around your upper leg and middle, even though you haven’t gained weight.


4)      See your doctor.

Although you might assume that pain in the hip is due to a hip problem, this isn’t always the case. Back issues or instability in the knees can cause hip discomfort, for example. A hip specialist can examine you to see where the source of the problem truly is. He or she also can perform simple procedures such as taking X-rays to confirm the severity of your hip damage.


5)      Observe your gait.

When a hip is damaged, the resulting pain or limited range of motion often affects how a person walks. You might find that it’s hard not to limp or that you’re taking much more time to shift one leg compared to the other. One hip might look higher than the other as you move, as well. Favoring one hip can throw off the alignment of the entire spine, so you might notice a height discrepancy in your shoulders, too, and your neck might contract slightly to one side as you try to compensate.



Multiple “clues” such as decreased range of motion and pain can suggest that a hip replacement is in your future. If you are aware of these signs early, you can form a good, proactive treatment plan with your surgeon that will prevent you from suffering unnecessarily for months or years.

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Mike Morgan
Mike Morgan

Mike Morgan is a health enthusiast and has written several health articles for various health magazines.

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