How to Minimize Pain While Waiting for Hip Replacement

Pain Relief Prior to Hip Replacement —

As a person with hip pain, you know very well there’s pain and then there’s ‘I can’t take this anymore’ pain. If you are feeling the latter then hopefully you are already on your way to a new hip via total hip replacement.  

Unfortunately not all surgeons, especially the more sought after ones, are available the next week or month. Many of the top ortho surgeons are completely booked for months at a time.  So how do you deal with the unrelenting pain in your hip while waiting?

To best minimize pain while waiting for your hip replacement, I would will suggest using some or all of the options below on a daily basis:

  • Physical Therapy Stretches for Joint Mobility
  • Modalities including Ice, Heat, Electrical Stimulation, Topical Creams/Balms
  • Compression Sleeves or Braces
  • Better Athletic Shoes for Support
  • Shoe Inserts or Heel Lifts to Provide Additional Cushioning and Leg Length Correction
  • Pain Medications (Prescription and Over the Counter)
  • Massage
  • Cortisone Injections

Physical Therapy Stretches for Hip Pain Relief

Getting an evaluation from your local physical therapist for proper stretching activities before your hip replacement would be a smart decision.  You can find hip stretch exercises online however I would strongly suggest you consult with a PT to maximize your success.  

Your surgeon will likely suggest you doing 3-4 weeks of pre-op physical therapy 2-3x/week in order to condition your leg for surgery.  Included in this therapy routine would be stretches that you can perform daily on your own at home.

Modalities to Reduce Your Hip Joint Pain

What is a modality you may ask?  Modalities are defined as a method of treatment or a method of therapeutic approach.  In layman’s terms this means anything applied to the area of pain that helps decrease it temporarily. 

You may be asking what are some modalities that can be used for hip pain?  Let’s take a look and give you some options that you may or may not have around your home already.

ice packs for hip pain
  • Ice – For most hip patients using simply ice packs or ice in general to the hip region can reduce the pain significantly. This can be enough to fend off the aches and pains until your surgery date.  
    • Place ice on the area of pain and swelling for at least 20-30 minutes and no longer than 60 minutes per session.  
      • Various forms of icing available to you are standard bags of ice, gel ice packs and ice machines.  Use any of these methods daily up to 5-7 times per day as needed to keep the pain and inflammation at bay
  • Heat – Some people with severe hip pain and arthritis simply can’t tolerate ice to that region for long periods so heat would be an option. 
    • Heating pads, especially moist heat capable, can be very soothing to the arthritic pain limiting your mobility.  
    • Hot water bottles and rice filled bed buddies heated in the microwave are other forms of heat that can be used for relief. I suggest to my patients 20-30 minute heating sessions 5-7 times per day
  • Topical Rubs or Balms – Using over the counter or prescription grade ointments can provide temporary pain relief in a safe manner. 
    • Voltarin, BioFreeze and IcyHot are three of the most common over the counter rubs to provide pain relief prior to hip replacement.  
    • If you have sensitive skin be sure to test these first to be sure you don’t have any skin reaction before applying liberally to your hip region.
tens unit for hip pain
  • TENS Unit – Electrical Stimulation can be applied to the painful region of your leg in the form of a portable TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) unit. 
    • TENS units use 2-4 sticky electrical conduction pads applied to your skin which can provide soothing muscle contractions or temporary pain ablation. 
    • Your physician or physical therapist can obtain a TENS unit for you, often times covered under your health insurance plan. 
    • Various TENS unit formats are also available online through Amazon and are relatively inexpensive to purchase.

Compression Sleeves, Assistive Devices and Braces For Hip Pain Relief

Wearable garments and compression sleeves are readily available online which can provide additional support to the hip area.  Often times the added compression provides pain reduction and can minimize pain while waiting for your hip replacement.  Make sure the fit is snug but not too constrictive that it affects your blood flow.  

Some will find relief using a simple lumbar spine brace just above the hip joint level to provide support during activities such as bending and lifting.  By supporting the lower back area, this allows better posture and thus lowers strain to the hip region.  

For severe cases there are hip abduction braces which will limit your hip motion and help with the pain.  However, these types of braces are really not meant for pain reduction but rather limiting motion after a surgery.  This would be a last resort type of choice for uncontrolled hip pain.

By now you are probably using a cane and if severe enough a walker or rollator to ease your hip pain. These are all good choices for your mobility and you should not be afraid to use at all times of the day for support.

Better Athletic Shoes To Minimize Hip Pain

In my experience, too many patients wear loafers, flats, sandals or no shoes at all from the start.  Usually these patients say they are more comfortable wearing these types of shoes and that’s certainly each person’s choice.  However,  study after study has shown that proper athletic shoe wear increases support in the knee, hips and lumbar spine regions.  

athletic shoes for hip pain

The best type of shoes for those with hip pain is an athletic shoe with some type of arch support.  The brand or cost of the shoe makes no difference, simply find the right pair that fits your feet. Its a simple choice, athletic shoe with cushioned support.

Do not wear high heels, loafers or flats as they do not provide enough support or cushioning.  Most importantly do not walk around bare foot as this adds joint stress each and every step you take.

Shoes Inserts or Heel Lifts Can Correct Leg Length Issues

Various types of shoe inserts are available to add extra cushioning to the foot during walking.  Again, brand name does not matter as much as fit and amount of cushioning does.  Something as simple as a shoe insert can help cushion the joint pain while waiting for your new hip.

For those with one leg longer than the other, common in hip patients, I suggest adding a heel lift in the shorter leg.  Inexpensive versions are available online with removable layers in 1/8 increments to get the proper fit. Patients often can get immediate pain relief in my practice when given the correct heel lift.

Massage Options for Hip Pain

A good massage can provide excellent short term pain relief while waiting for your hip replacement.  Working the muscles and soft tissue around the joint to improve flexibility will allow you more movement with less pain.

massage for hip pain

So what type of massage would be best?  It depends on your access level to professional massage therapy in your area and your willingness to partake in it.  A licensed massage therapist can properly determine what’s needed for your hip pain .

An alternative to professional massage therapy are deep tissue massage guns available that are fair alternatives to a professional massage.  While not as effective as a professional massage, it may provide you with enough pain relief in the interim.  

Cortisone Injections for Hip Arthritis

The final method to help with pain relief leading into your surgery would be a cortisone injection.  I save this for last because you will not be able to have your surgery for at least 3 months afterwards.  

Cortisone injection leading into a hip replacement surgery would be a last choice for my patients because of this required time delay.  For some this may provide 2-3 months of relief, enough to get them closer to the surgery date.

Final Thoughts Regarding How to Minimize Pain While Waiting For Hip Replacement

Any of the above pain relief methods can be the key to getting you through to your surgery date.  You may be using some of the methods already but others you may not have thought about until now so make sure you try all avenues.  

Plan your days accordingly when you are leading up to your hip surgery.  Make sure you are using at least 3-4 of the listed pain relief techniques daily to maximize your mobility.  Your surgery will be here any day now so help is on the way.

About Jeffrey Roth MPT

Owner and operator of Roth Therapy Services in Pittsburgh, PA focusing on in home rehabilitation physical therapy services.


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