Hip Preservation: New Help for Hurting Hips
While most of us associate chronic hip pain with age and arthritis, a surprising number of younger people are also affected. The key difference lies in the cause of their discomfort and the consequences of their medical treatments.
Until recently, traditional treatment for hip disorders has been pretty straightforward: first, physical therapy and/or medications to try to control the pain, followed by hip replacement. The problem is that hip replacements only last 15 to 20 years before they, too, wear out. For a young person, that’s not a good long-term solution.
Now, there are advances in tools and techniques that can give some younger candidates relief from hip pain today while postponing, or even eliminating, the need for a hip replacement in the future.
“Hip arthroscopy is a new, minimally invasive and proven approach to hip replacement when certain characteristics are recognized early on,” explains Evan Argintar, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon at MedStar Orthopaedic Institute at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. “For instance, we can use the approach to repair cartilage tears and recontour abnormal hip bone shapes, stabilizing the chronic condition and preserving the hip joints.”
Typically, hip pain in younger and middle-aged patients is due to femoroacetabular impingement (FAI). The condition occurs when the head of the thigh bone (the ball) does not fit properly into the pelvis (the socket), producing pain and lack of mobility. Because FAI’s symptoms are aggravated by physical activity, the condition is most often seen in professional athletes or avid exercisers.
FAI is just one of the many hip disorders that can affect anyone, at any age. The good news is that research shows that timely interventions for some conditions may slow or even reserve their progress.
“Thanks to hip preservation techniques,” says Dr. Argintar, “we can now give younger, active patients more years to enjoy doing what they do without the pain and without a replacement.”