Pain “Transfers” from Hip to Knees

Until just recently, I was not hip about hips.

I aged 30 years in a day last week when I learned that my right hip is a mess. I have severe osteoarthritis and a complete joint replacement is the only solution. The X-rays of my hip show minimal cartilage in most of my hip, and the top of the femur rubs against the hip socket in what the doctors call “bone on bone.”

Incredibly, this is due to a birth defect. I am 51 and never had a clue.

Until last week I ran almost every day in the hills or I swam, fast. I loved the feeling. The only bothersome body parts were my knees. My hip hurt but was not that painful, and I assumed it was just a sore muscle. Well, I was all wrong. My knees are fine; apparently the pain I felt was “transfer pain” from my hip.

Now I notice that I carry most of my weight on my left side. When I stand, I slightly shift my weight away from the sore hip to my strong leg. When I sit, I lift my bad hip up ever so slightly and shift my weight to the strong side. Consequently, my back now hurts, a lot.

Honestly, I am not taking this all very well. I am rather whiny and mopey. As I sort out how to cope, I do feel lucky that I swim well, because that is a recommended exercise both before and after hip surgery. And I want to pass on the resources I have discovered and urge you to check out any errant aches or pains.

My best resources are several older female friends who are undaunted by painful or replaced hips. Kagey Dorosz worked up until the day of surgery, and very soon after was zipping around in several counties pursuing her passion: elder abuse prevention.

Isabelle Maynard, whose lifelong severe hip problem cannot be corrected by surgery, manages her pain through swimming, exercises, acupuncture, Celebrex and sometimes pain medication. She is so busy between tutoring middle schoolers in writing, taking classes in piano and French, and planning a trip to Europe that she had difficulty finding time for coffee with me.

It is Isabelle who reminds me that I am lucky to qualify for hip replacement surgery. She says, “I would give anything if surgery would correct my problem. But it won’t. What can you do? When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade.”

My orthopedic doctor’s recommendations are to keep strong and healthy until surgery. Sitting around is not an option. He suggested swimming, stationary bike riding, yoga, and stretching as exercises, along with taking antioxidants, vitamins C, D, E, Vioxx, or other anti-inflammatories and glucosamine-chondroitin sulfate.

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