Hip replacement due to osteoarthritis isn't usually considered an urgent procedure. For other conditions, such as hip fracture, there may be no other option.
Most people with osteoarthritis try a range of non-surgical options to relieve their discomfort and possibly delay having their hip replaced. Here are some you can consider in conjunction with your doctor.
Strengthening and aerobic exercises can help reduce pain and increase function. A graded exercise program under the guidance of a healthcare professional is recommended. Aquatic exercise, such as swimming, aqua aerobics or hydrotherapy, is particularly gentle on the joints.
Weight loss (if you’re overweight)
For each kilo of weight you lose, you reduce the load on your hip joint by 4 kilos. No wonder losing excess weight can improve things! Weight loss of 5% or more has been shown to dramatically reduce joint pain. It can also reduce inflammation in the body, which is now believed to be a risk factor for osteoarthritis.
Have a look at our 18-week Healthy Weight for Life weight loss program, which is specially designed for people living with osteoarthritis. It includes activity and portion-controlled eating plans, online tracking plus support via phone, SMS and email. The program is free to eligible HCF members with hospital cover.
The Healthy Weight for Life program can also be used to improve your fitness before hip replacement surgery.
Walking with a stick
Walking with a stick on the opposite side to your affected hip can reduce the load transmitted through the joint, reducing pain and improving function. A physiotherapist can help you learn how to use a stick for maximum benefit.
Rubbing a pain-relieving gel into the area around your painful hip can relieve osteoarthritis pain and carries less risk of side effects compared to oral medications. Commonly available analgesic gels contain ibuprofen, diclofenac or methyl salicylate.
There are a number of oral medications that can help reduce pain and improve function in hip osteoarthritis. Chances are you’ve already tried paracetamol.
Your doctor may also have recommended or prescribed a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agent (NSAID). Common NSAIDs have the generic names aspirin, meloxicam, celecoxib, ibuprofen, mefenamic acid, diclofenac, naproxen, piroxicam and ketoprofen. They have a tendency to cause gastric side effects and you should consult your doctor before trying them if you have any other health conditions.
More powerful analgesics containing opioids such as codeine, oxycodone, morphine or tramadol can be prescribed but they’re not recommended for long-term use due to their side effects, toxicity and potential for addiction.
A corticosteroid injected into a painful hip can help reduce swelling and stiffness on a temporary basis.
Non evidence-based treatments
You may have heard about the following treatments, but, to date, evidence of their effectiveness is lacking.
Supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin are commonly used by people with osteoarthritis, but there isn't currently enough evidence to support their use.
Platelet-rich plasma injection is used to relieve osteoarthritis pain. Blood is collected from your arm and spun in a centrifuge to extract the platelet rich plasma. It’s then injected into the joint. There is little evidence it's effective at relieving joint pain.
Experimental treatments should only be tried under strict medical supervision, such as in the context of a clinical trial. HCF doesn't cover experimental treatments or procedures. Before undertaking any procedure or taking any new medication, be sure to consult your regular healthcare practitioner.
weight management before surgery
Join HCF's weight management program and reduce osteoarthritis pain.