Your hip is one of the largest weight-bearing joints in your body. When it's working properly, it lets you walk, sit, bend, and turn without pain. To keep it moving smoothly, a complex network of bones, cartilage, muscles, ligaments, and tendons must all work in harmony.
The hip is a very stable ball-and-socket joint: A ball (femoral head) at the top of the thighbone (femur) fits into a rounded socket or cup-like cavity (acetabulum) in your pelvis. Bands of tissues called ligaments form a capsule connecting the ball to the socket and holding the bones in place.
A layer of smooth tissue called cartilage cushions the surface of the bones, helping the ball to rotate easily in the socket. Fluid-filled sacs (bursae) cushion the area where muscles or tendons glide across bone. The capsule surrounding the joint also has a lining (synovium) that secretes a clear liquid called synovial fluid. This fluid lubricates the joint, further reducing friction and making movement easier.
Injury or disease can damage your hip in several ways, resulting in a broken or deteriorated bone, irritated bursae, or worn cartilage. The most common cause of hip pain is osteoarthritis (OA). Other causes of hip pain include rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, osteonecrosis (death of bone caused by insufficient blood supply), injury, infection, and bone tumors.
Understanding how your hip works
If your hip has been damaged by arthritis, a fracture or other conditions, common activities such as walking or getting in and out of a chair may be painful and difficult. Your hip may be stiff and it may be hard to put on your shoes and socks. You may even feel uncomfortable while resting.
If medications, changes in your everyday activities, and the use of walking aids such as a cane are not helpful, you may want to consider hip replacement surgery. By replacing your diseased hip joint with an artificial joint, hip replacement surgery can relieve your pain, increase motion, and help you get back to enjoying normal, everyday activities.
First performed in 1960, hip replacement surgery is one of the most important surgical advances of the last century. Since 1960, improvements in joint replacement surgical techniques and technology have greatly increased the effectiveness of total hip replacement. Today, more than 193,000 total hip replacements are performed each year in the United States. Similar surgical procedures are performed on other joints, including the knee, shoulder, and elbow.