Hip replacement is a procedure that can lead to greater freedom, reduced or eliminated pain and a better quality of life. While it can be life-changing for many, such as people with osteoarthritis, knowing exactly when the time is right can be challenging.
Assess the Hip Issue
The first step is to assess the hip problem. Pay attention to your symptoms and record details, so you can be well-informed and discuss the information with your doctor. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Are you unable to perform certain daily tasks, like walking up stairs or getting out of a chair because of stiffness, swelling or hip pain?
- Is it hard to get to sleep, or do you wake up frequently due to hip pain?
- Do you avoid walking, shopping or staying active because you want to stay off your hip?
- Have you tried other treatments, like medications or physical therapy, but still have ongoing pain?
If some or all of these issues are affecting your life, hip replacement could be a good option for you — but there are still more things you should consider.
Other Factors that Contribute to Timing of Hip Replacement Surgery
When considering hip replacement, step back and look at the big picture. In addition to thinking about your pain level and stiffness, also consider:
- If you are younger: Hip replacement may allow you to continue your favorite sports or activities, or even try new ones. However, younger patients will likely need to have a second hip replacement in the future (known as revision surgery), since artificial hip joints typically have a lifespan of approximately 20 years.
- If you are older: After the procedure, you should have greater freedom, ability and independence. However, it can take many months (up to a year) to recover and rehabilitate after the procedure.
- Bone density: Osteoporosis or osteoarthritis causes the bones to weaken. This might mean it is not the right time for hip replacement, depending on your specific condition. Consult with your doctor to determine what is best for you.
- Overall health: If you have another health issue or any unhealthy lifestyle habits, it might not be the right time for hip replacement. However, if you change your habits, it could become a possibility. For instance, if you stop smoking or lose weight, your overall health could improve, which could make the near future a good time for hip replacement surgery.
Tend to Your Emotional Health
When thinking about surgery for yourself, it’s normal to have questions and concerns. But if you are very anxious when you think about hip replacement, it may not be the right time for you. Here are some tips on how to manage or reduce anxiety:
- Ask your doctor about strategies other patients have used to manage their anxiety regarding hip replacement.
- Avoid random Internet searches about the procedure, which often provide incorrect or biased information. For more information, ask your doctor to recommend trusted medical websites.
- Visit another doctor for a second opinion.
- Talk to a mental health counselor about your anxiety.
The Bottom Line
Remember that hip pain can occasionally flare-up, then improve. You should only consider a hip replacement if you are experiencing chronic pain that is significantly impacting your life and other non-surgical treatments have not brought you any relief.