Preserving Joint Health and Mobility: Alternatives to Hip Replacement

A few years ago, when my focus was primarily on working with athletes, I encountered a situation where one of my runners pleaded with me to evaluate his 85-year-old father, who was scheduled for hip replacement surgery. This elderly gentleman had been struggling with debilitating hip pain for an extended period and felt deeply frustrated by his inability to walk without enduring discomfort. However, he adamantly resisted the idea of surgery, convinced it would be fatal.

After some consideration, I agreed and conducted an initial assessment. To my astonishment, it was not merely a matter of insufficient strength preventing him from transitioning from a standing position to the floor; the primary issue was his hip pain. Upon further examination, I discovered that his mobility in the affected hip was significantly limited. Moreover, I observed a pervasive spiral pattern of imbalance throughout his entire body, extending from the neck down to the ankles. It was evident that he had been compiling layers of compensation patterns, protecting previous injuries, which eventually resulted in pressure on the hip joint.

I devised a comprehensive treatment plan, and within a matter of weeks, there was a remarkable improvement in his overall mobility. We successfully restored his alignment and released the fascia responsible for perpetuating his compensatory movement patterns, which had aggravated his imbalances. Most significantly, his hip pain vanished, transforming his life. He resumed hiking, even purchased a bicycle for commuting, and, remarkably, adhered to his daily exercises. Sadly, he eventually passed away from cancer at the age of 90, but he continued his exercises, walks, and cycling until the end.

However, what if there is significant joint surface damage?

A substantial proportion of hip replacement surgeries are performed on individuals complaining of chronic hip pain, often coupled with joint degeneration or osteoarthritis evident on X-rays. It is worth noting that nearly every hip over the age of 50, regardless of pain, will exhibit a degree of joint degeneration on an X-ray.

Pain in the hip or any part of the body does not invariably indicate pathology; rather, it signals a disruption of bodily harmony that necessitates corrective action. Most often, hip pain results from unresolved physical or emotional trauma that requires attention to restore balance. Joint degeneration is a common part of aging, accentuated by alignment issues within the body. Since our hips bear the weight of the entire upper body, alignment problems in the neck, back, shoulders, and arms can cascade into hip issues, subsequently affecting the knees and ankles.

Numerous supplements on the market claim to scientifically restore joint surfaces. However, it is essential to understand that taking these supplements is futile if the root cause, alignment issues, persists.

So, how can one alleviate chronic hip pain without resorting to surgery?

It is crucial to recognize that the body functions as a unit. A stiff shoulder, for instance, can trigger alignment problems throughout the entire body. Therefore, addressing hip issues solely with mobility or strengthening exercises is insufficient. We must tackle the underlying imbalance to achieve a lasting and effective solution.

In our comprehensive assessment of clients experiencing hip pain, we begin by evaluating the neck and extend our examination down to the toes. This thorough evaluation reveals the precise imbalance pattern, reducing the risk of overlooking critical factors.

Our approach involves releasing the tense fascia in the areas identified during the assessment. Gradually, we eliminate the spiral force affecting the hip. Once the hip can move in proper alignment without uneven pressure on the joint, the pain begins to dissipate. Only at this stage should strength exercises come into play. Strengthening an improperly aligned hip will only intensify the existing patterns, potentially causing more pain and dysfunction.

Why do so many patients continue to experience pain after surgery?

Considering that hip degeneration is often the result of a full-body imbalance, it is inevitable that even with a new hip joint, the underlying imbalance continues to affect the other hip and both knees. This is why many patients eventually require additional hip or knee replacements.

A helpful analogy is that of a vehicle with unevenly worn tires. Replacing the tire alone will not resolve the issue; realigning the wheels is necessary. Curiously, alignment therapy is rarely recommended before or after hip replacement surgery. The focus typically remains on symptom management rather than addressing the root cause.

Prevention is indeed superior to treatment.

Maintaining body alignment, especially as one ages, is paramount for joint health. Achieving this involves a comprehensive full-body assessment, which can pinpoint areas requiring attention.

While the media encourages physical activity as we age, there is insufficient emphasis on maintaining body alignment. Engaging in activities such as extended walks, running, or cycling while the body remains in dysfunctional patterns can accelerate wear and tear. In contrast, these activities can be highly beneficial when the body is in proper alignment.

As demonstrated by my 85-year-old client mentioned earlier, it is never too late to restore alignment and regain mobility. With healthy lifestyles and diets, many of us are poised to enjoy longer lives. By adequately maintaining our bodies, we can remain healthy, pain-free, and active well into our nineties.