How To Prevent a Hip Replacement

In the New York Times recently there was an article about hip replacement surgery and the rise in complaints about a specific kind of hip replacement. Hip replacements are the most common joint replacement surgery, numbering 500,000. About 5,000 people suffer from the debilitating side-effects from faulty hip replacements. That's a lot of pain. In certain specific cases a full hip replacement is life-giving, and the best (and probably only) option for preserving quality of life and movement. Those with necrosis of the hip, long term wear and tear due to undiagnosed compensation or scoliosis, severe impact trauma, certain bone diseases, and rheumatoid arthritis can cause deterioration of joints and are examples of those who are prime candidates for hip replacement surgery.

Joint replacements are on the rise. "There is a huge swell of elderly patients from the baby boom who will come through the system and be candidates for artificial joints," explains researcher Steven M. Kurtz, PhD. Why is this? Age? Genetics? Deterioration of the human species?

Hip replacements that are not disease related can be prevented with Somatic Education, Somatic Exercises, and improved proprioception and movement.

"The system" of which Dr. Kurtz speaks of is the medical system. Most of my clients have been through "the system;" they've seen every specialist, from orthopedists to physical therapists, and they still have muscle pain. If doctors had a basic understanding of sensory motor training and Somatic Education they might help prevent a large number of hip and knee replacements, thus saving millions of dollars.

Aging baby boomers can remain active, flexible, and pain-free if they retain proper muscle function, control, and body awareness.

Being able to sense how you respond to stress in your body is the first step.  If you have an accident, a fall or a trauma to your body, being able to notice how your your movement changes in order to compensate, and having someone to coach you back to balanced, symmetrical movement, are two important elements that go a long way toward preventing hip replacement. I've written a series of blog posts about hip pain, with suggestions of Somatic Exercises that will help begin releasing the muscles that cause most hip pain. They're worth reading.

As a reminder: MRIs, X-rays and third person diagnostics show only physical structure. They don't show how your brain has learned to compensate muscularly. Nor do they show the state of sensory motor amnesia that is responsible for most chronic, non-disease-based hip pain. This is only diagnosable by watching someone move and noticing the lack of balance and coordination that results. I've worked with dozens of clients complaining of hip pain with muscles on one side of their body (usually trunk rotators - the lattisimus, rectus abdominus, obliques, adductors and abductors)  that are so tight that the hip simply isn't moving. Rarely do I work with someone who has bilateral hip pain. Why?

Many cases of hip pain are an habituated compensation problem and not a problem of the hip joint itself.  It is a problem of the brain - the command center of the muscles.

This pattern of compensation is called the Trauma Reflex.  Dancers, athletes, anyone who's ever taken a sudden fall, all reflexively invoke the trauma reflex.  This alters one's gait, creating unequal pressure into one hip more than the other.  A lack of variety in movement (squatting, dancing, hiking on uneven surfaces) and an excess of sitting only more deeply entrenches the problem. An habituated trauma reflex left unchecked for decades is a recipe for a future hip replacement. Help the client to become aware of their reflexive tightening of the muscles that are causing that pelvic imbalance, unequal weight bearing, leg length discrepancy or twisted pelvis... and the pain goes away.

Hip pain is often the result of faulty function of muscles and movement. It is reversible with Hanna Somatic Education.

To begin to learn Somatic Exercises that will reverse hip pain, improve body awareness, muscle control and coordination, and improve flexibility, check out my Pain Relief Through Movement DVD. You'll be glad you did.