What you can do to prevent – or at least delay – hip surgery

If you’re older than 50, there’s every chance you know somebody who’s had a hip replacement.

In Australia, around 50,000 people each year go into hospital to get a full hip replacement. The logic is sound. Hip replacements are not as invasive as knee replacements and more often than not assist the recipient in getting their life back to normal.

Get a new hip and you’re 95 per cent assured of 10 good years and 80 per cent certain that things will stay good for 20 years.

But according to WebMD, there are things you can do to perhaps prevent spending thousands of dollars on a new hip, or, at very least, put off the replacement for a few years.

Here’s what you can do – for free

1. Weigh yourself, and if you’re heavier than you’d like (you could get technical but you know when you’re carrying extra kilos) try losing some weight. Every five kilograms adds around 20 kilograms of pressure to your knees and hips.

2. Try to avoid picking up 20 kilo bags of dog biscuits and carrying them from the car to the house. All heavy things lifted add pressure and pain to hips (and knees).

3. Ask your doctor whether exercise (and which types) might help. There’s a chance it won’t, but there’s more chance that some walking or even yoga might help, at least for a while. But don’t start running. Pounding pavements isn’t recommended.

Physiotherapist Jason Lee says that as we get older, we lose bone mass and bone strength. Over a lifetime, women can lose between 30 and 50 per cent of bone mass while men can lose between 20 and 30 per cent. That’s makes hip fractures increasingly likely. He recommends these exercises.

4. Exercising in water reduces impact while promoting movement. You can also do specific exercises at home, but always remember, if it hurts, stop.

5. Check your footwear. Cheap shoes are sometimes cheap for a reason, namely because they’re not supporting your foot. Walking in high heels is not advisable.

6. Anti-inflammatory drugs can relieve pain, but shouldn’t be taken regularly. Talk to your doctor. For example, if your hip pain is caused by something such as rheumatoid arthritis, your doctor might suggest a steroid.

The Mayo Clinic’s advice on hips is well worth following. It recommends you do everything you can to delay surgery and says many people are able to avoid surgery by taking nonsurgical options.  

“Keep in mind that surgery is not automatically the first option. Be sure to speak with your healthcare provider about nonsurgical treatments.

A total hip replacement can be extremely positive for your wellbeing. However, you need to be confident it’s right for you.”

This advice is logical when you do the numbers. If doctors tell you that the average hip replacement will be good for 10 to 15 years, it’s probably not wise to be rushing off for a replacement in your 50s or 60s if the odds suggest you might be requiring an upgrade in your 70s or 80s when surgery takes on a more formidable meaning.

A personal experience

Now, if I may, can I speak personally?

I had a knee replacement two years ago at the age of 67.

What I did right was to put it off as long as I could. The pain had been there for about three years, meaning I didn’t like walking and needed to play golf in a cart. When it started waking me up at night, I decided time was up.

I also did Pilates, but I stopped because it’s not cheap. Looking back, my knee started giving me more trouble not long after I stopped.

What I did wrong was not losing some weight. I recently lost five kilograms and the difference on everything I did was pronounced. It’s just hard to keep it off.

These days my knee is pretty much trouble free. There’s no pain unless it gets cold and then it can ache. I asked a doctor about this. She said that when the temperature drops, extremities of the body receive less blood because the body works less as it tries to retain heat. This results in stiffness and pain in joints.

That helps explain why so many people in southern areas leave home in winter to spend time in the warmer states.

Have you had a hip replacement? Was it a success? What advice would you have for anyone considering the operation? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Also read: Mobility key to recovery from hip surgery

Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.

Steve Perkin
Steve Perkin
Steve Perkin had a long and distinguished career as a journalist, covering sport and general news and writing daily columns for The Age and the Herald Sun. He's written three books and is a regular YourLifeChoices contributor.


  1. So 52 years ago I damaged my left knee playing footy, torn meniscus, I was 19 and very fit. I have nursed that injury and managed the pain & swelling since 1971. Then ten years ago a specialist orthopedic doctor told me my knee would need to be replaced within the next 4 years. Being slightly Irish I disagreed and then found some marvelous information on-line, a simple exercise to renew joint cartilage. The main idea is to loose weight and then get the blood back into the joint. Now at 71 my knee has never been better, not perfect, but I will do anything I can to dodge the dreaded “joint replacement industry”.

    • I regularly practiced Iyenga yoga for nearly 30 years, which I believe has kept me reasonably fit and healthy and kept most of my body in good shape. However in my early 80’s my left hip caused so much pain in walking and in doing any exercise, I had it replaced. While it certainly made life much better, no matter how much I did special exercises my left leg has been weaker than the other. I would recommend having is as late as possible, but it does make life a lot better.
      In my late eighties, both of my knees made it painful to walk due to earlier years of tennis, soccer and golf. I did knee exercises prescribed in a physiotherapist program, but in the end opted for a double knee replacement. Unlike hip replacements, knee replacement do not require a full anesthetic, but an epidural, so less risk to older patients. If you do the prescribed pre-op exercises and immediately after the operation, continue with the exercise program continuously it is easier to recover from knee replacement than a hip replacement. The only real problem is that
      kneeling takes a lot of exercise recover. But now in my nineties, I still go to gym a few times a week, can walk good distances and generally do most things apart from suffering the fatigue that comes with old age. I would be in a wheel chair, if the knees hadn’t been replaced.

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