There are alternatives to hip replacement surgery

The number of hip replacement surgeries performed in the United States has significantly increased over the past decade and also has become more common in younger people. A recent study indicated that over the decade from 2000 to 2010, the number of hip replacement surgeries more than doubled from approximately 140,000 to more than 310,000. The number of surgeries in those over the age of 75 grew by 92 percent to 80,000. The number between the ages of 45 to 54 rose by 205 percent to about 52,000 surgeries.

A lead statistician with the National Center for Health Statistics said that the main reason given for the increase in these types of surgeries is the increase in osteoarthritis, and that there is an increase in osteoarthritis in younger people. The implication for all of this is that there will be an increase in replacement of the replacements as the hip replacements wear out in the younger recipients. (Sounds like a great business model.) In the 1960s, the total hip replacement was introduced, and it continued to be a fairly rare procedure until the late 1980s. The number of hip replacements in 1984 was 9,000. The numbers were 119,000 in 1990 and now?

Osteoarthritis is the most common joint disorder and there are some factors that make the chances of getting osteoarthritis worse. There is a familial trend, which means it does have a genetic link. Being overweight increases the risk for osteoarthritis because it causes more wear and tear on the joint especially in the hip, knee, ankle and foot.

Fractures or other joint injuries including in cartilage and ligaments in the joint also increase the risk. Jobs or activities that require kneeling or squatting for more than an hour a day or that involve extensive lifting or climbing stairs also can increase the wear and tear on your joints.

Playing sports that involve direct impact on the joint such as football or twisting such as basketball or soccer also can increase the risk of osteoarthritis. Medical conditions such as hemophilia (bleeding disorders) that can cause bleeding into the joint, disorders that block the blood supply near a joint, or other inflammatory diseases such as gout, pseudo-gout or rheumatoid arthritis can also increase the risk of osteoarthritis.

Some alternatives to surgery, which in my humble opinion is always the last intervention to be considered, are lifestyle changes such as applying hot and cold packs to the inflamed joint, eating healthy foods to reduce body weight and reduce inflammation, getting enough sleep, losing weight through moderate exercise and protecting your joints from injury. Even taking small daily doses of acetaminophen (no more than 3 grams) because it has fewer side effects than other over the counter pain medications sounds better than an invasive procedure. Other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs include aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen.

You would always want to ask your doctor about taking any kind of medications especially if you are taking other medications as well. Other sources say that using supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate and capsaicin skin cream can provide relief from joint pain. Exercise and physical therapy may also help improve muscle strength to support the joint as well as help with balance. Massage from a licensed massage therapist who knows how to deal with sensitive joints may provide relief as well. Doctors or therapists may recommend a brace or a splint to provide support to a weakened or arthritic joint. This is something that should be fitted and monitored by a health care professional. Acupuncture is another known therapy that may provide relief to affected joints. The injection of S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe) is synthetic chemical that may help reduce joint inflammation and pain.

Other types of surgery to repair damaged joints include arthroscopic surgery to trim and replace torn and damaged cartilage, osteotomy to change the alignment of a bone to reduce the stress on the joint, surgical fusion or total or partial joint replacement.

You might guess that I’m all in favor of people reducing their weight, eating right and getting enough sleep and not doing activities that might lead to joint damage. It seems to me that over the past years people are treating replacement surgeries like it is the expected and right thing to do as you get older. I beg to differ. Looking after yourself is the right thing to do. Your body is not like a machine that when a part wears out, you just drop a new part into it. If you take care of your body your body will serve you well — for a life time. In my opinion, surgery should always be the last resort after your have tried everything else.


Jane Riley is a certified nutritional adviser. She can be reached at, (808) 212-1451 or


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