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5 Ways to Avoid a Hip Replacement

March 08, 2024

The best surgery is no surgery, they say. But can you actually avoid a hip replacement?

We asked John Keggi, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon at Orthopaedics New England and an attending orthopaedic surgeon at MidState Medical Center.

“We can’t control some things, but there are many factors that we can control that can reduce the need for a hip replacement,” says Dr. Keggi.

Here are five things you can do to avoid (or at least put off) a hip replacement.

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But first, who needs a hip replacement?

“The typical patient who comes in about a hip replacement is someone who has a lot of pain in the hip, which is usually in the groin, which some patients find surprising,” says Dr. Keggi. “While it’s mostly groin pain, sometimes the pain goes into the side or even to the knee.”

Dr. Keggi says the patient age range for a hip replacement is anywhere from 40 to 90+ years old, but it’s most common in people in their 60s and 70s.

There can be many contributing factors for needing a hip replacement:

  • Childhood hip conditions
  • Hip dysplasia (seen more in women)
  • Femoroacetabular impingement (more common in men)
  • Hip trauma
  • Progression of osteoarthritis

“If you can’t sleep well, have trouble putting on your shoes, can’t play with your grandkids, or have pain that’s unrelieved by any method, get it checked out,” says Dr. Keggi.

If you want to prevent this stage, here’s 5 ways to avoid a hip replacement.

> Related: Which Type of Hip Replacement Is Right for Me?

1. Eat right

“In today’s world, we have a lot of highly processed foods, and we’re seeing the incidence of arthritis and other inflammation-related conditions going up,” says Dr. Keggi.

The answer isn’t a constant diet. Instead, it’s adopting a lifestyle of nutritious food.

Dr. Keggi offers a few simple tips to make the switch:

  • Avoid food/drinks with additives.
  • Limit the white stuff (i.e., sugar, rice, pasta, ice cream.)
  • Embrace low-inflammation foods.
  • Eat with the color palette.

2. Get sleep

“Sleep reduces inflammation, keeps our proper cortisol levels in check and maintains our health,” says Dr. Keggi. “You’ll experience more arthritis symptoms if you have higher inflammation.”

If you can’t catch those Z’s, talk to your doctor about a sleep study, which can also help diagnose possible issues like sleep apnea.

3. Exercise

“Exercise is important for your cardiovascular health, glucose control, mental and physical health, bone density and joint health,” says Dr. Keggi. “Even ten minutes of low-resistance movement gets blood flowing to your muscles and into your joints, helping reduce pain from arthritis symptoms.”

You can even run.

“Contrary to common belief, things like running don’t cause hip or knee arthritis,” explains Dr. Keggi. “You can’t run too many 5Ks and wear out your hip. If you’re not feeling pain, exercise is generally good.”

4. Maintain your weight

“We all know extra weight puts extra pressure on our joints,” says Dr. Keggi. “But fat cells also produce high levels of inflammation just by themselves.”

He says losing weight, even five or 10 pounds, can help.

“Turns out, weight loss is about 80% or 90% lifestyle changes and 10% exercise,” he says. “It’s amazing what people can accomplish with simple modifications.”

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5. Don’t smoke or vape

Smoking has a direct effect on the progression of arthritis.

If you already smoke or vape, quitting can be key in delaying the need for a hip replacement.

There are ways to ease hip pain without surgery.

While this answer depends on your doctor’s advice, Dr. Keggi shares some general ways to get some hip pain relief:

  • Over-the-counter medications (i.e., TYLENOL®, Ibuprofen, Naproxen)
  • Prescription anti-inflammatory medications
  • Acupuncture
  • Chiropractic treatment
  • Physical therapy
  • Cortisone hip joint injection
  • Glucosamine supplements
  • Vitamin D supplements

If your hip pain is getting in the way of your life, see a doctor.

“When people think of seeing a surgeon, they think about surgery,” he admits. “Coming in to see us doesn’t mean you’re having surgery, but it will give you everything you need to know.”

In this initial consult, you’ll discuss your symptoms and learn about the procedure.

“I encourage people to come in early and at least talk about it,” says Dr. Keggi. “It’s not a waste of our time at all. We are here to educate you about hip replacement surgery and help you feel confident about your decision.”