After hip replacement surgery, many patients experience post-operative discomfort and pain in the thigh. The hip joint has a lot of moving parts, and the surgery can disrupt a lot of normal hip function. As a result, many patients experience thigh pain that is not directly attributable to their hip replacement. Fortunately, there are several natural treatments for thigh pain after hip replacement surgery that can ease your discomfort and get you back to your normal routine in no time.
Symptoms of Thigh Pain After Hip Replacement
Pain in the thigh is one of the most common and most treatable of post-operative complications. As mentioned above, thigh pain is often due to disruption of normal function of the hip, which can cause muscles and tendons around the joint to spasm. As such, the most effective way to diagnose and treat thigh pain after hip replacement is to rule out causes that are extrinsic to the hip joint.
Episodes of thigh pain after hip replacement are often the result of mechanical problems of the lower extremity. Pins and needles in the leg, numbness, burning, or a “stunning” sensation in the leg are all telltale signs of a mechanical problem. For mechanical reasons, thigh pain can also occur if the quadriceps muscles have been weakened by the hip replacement, causing the knees to buckle inward when a patient stands up. Again, these are all symptoms that suggest another source of leg discomfort.
Causes of Thigh Pain After Hip Replacement
As mentioned above, mechanical problems are the most common source of thigh pain after hip replacement. The most common cause of mechanical problems is nerve damage from inferior sciatic nerve injury caused by an operation on the spine. As the spine is above the hip joint, any operation on the spine also has a high risk of affecting the hip joint.
The most common cause of thigh pain after hip replacement is an infection. If your doctor diagnoses osteomyelitis (an infection in the bone), they will prescribe an anti-inflammatory medication to reduce the inflammation. You should also take steps to prevent the spread of the infection, such as wearing a condom when you have sex.
Thigh Osteoarthritis; The most common cause of thigh pain after hip replacement is osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is the loss of cartilage in the hip joint. As a result, bone rubs against bone, causing dull pain. Osteoarthritis can also cause a clicking or grating sound when the affected hip is moved.
Thigh trauma; Trauma can cause pain, swelling, and a bruise-like color in the thigh area. While thigh trauma is often associated with a fall, it can also occur with sports that put too much stress on the hips, such as basketball or football.
Thigh nerve irritation; Nerve irritation in the thigh is usually an indication of a nerve entrapment. A nerve entrapment occurs when a nerve gets compressed against a bony prominence, such as the femoral neck or acetabulum. Nerve irritation causes pain, tenderness, and swelling in the affected area.
Damage to the nerves causing pain can also occur if the replacement ball of the hip joint is too big or too small. In these cases, the nerves that supply sensation to the thigh may be pinched or compressed by the ball, causing pain.
Other possible causes of thigh pain after hip replacement include:
- Thigh injury caused by repetitive motion and gripping, such as when a patient lifts their leg repetitively to walk.
- Excessive adhesions around the hip joint, which can cause a burning or “stabbing” sensation when the patient moves the leg.
Diagnosis of Thigh Pain After Hip Replacement
Unfortunately, while many people experience thigh pain after hip replacement, it is rarely caused by any of the above causes. Diagnosis is made by ruling out other possible causes of thigh pain, which means the doctor will have to take a more careful look at the symptoms and the patient’s medical history.
Should a patient’s thigh pain continue or get worse after two to three months following the operation, their doctor may order blood tests and an MRI to rule out other possible causes of their pain. An X-ray of the hip joint can also be useful in ruling out a hip osteoarthritis or hip fracture.
Prevention of Thigh Pain After Hip Replacement
As with most medical conditions, prevention is always the best medicine when it comes to avoiding thigh pain after hip replacement. To prevent mechanical problems, it’s important for patients to keep active, avoid prolonged sitting and take pain medication as prescribed. Patients should also have their replacement correctly sized.
The first step in the treatment of thigh pain after hip replacement surgery is ruling out other causes. This includes ruling out infection, muscle spasms and other conditions.
1. Make sure your hip replacement fits exactly
After your hip replacement surgery, your surgeon will want to make sure the replacement joint is a good fit for your body. If the prosthesis is too loose, it can cause friction and lead to redness and swelling in the surrounding area. If the prosthesis is too tight, it can lead to increased blood flow in the surrounding tissue, causing increased pain and a higher risk of infection.
To ensure a good fit, your doctor will measure your leg length, circumference, and bone density to calculate your ideal hip replacement size. You will then be fitted with a custom-made prosthesis that should fit relatively snugly without being too tight. Make sure your doctor checks for signs of osteoporosis, such as thinning of the bone, before your replacement wears out.
2. Ice can reduce swelling and bruising
Blisters are notoriously painful, and can form if your body absorbs a lot of liquid from a hip replacement bath too quickly. Blisters after a hip replacement are actually a sign of healing, but can be uncomfortable and lead to infection. To prevent blisters, apply an ice pack to the hip for 15 minutes every few hours for a couple of days. Make sure to wrap it in a cloth or use an ice bag to keep it cool. Blisters are generally a mild nuisance, but can be avoided if you take care of them early on.
3. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can provide fast relief
Over-the-counter pain medications do not generally cause any serious complications, but can be habit-forming. If you are prescribed an NSAID after your hip replacement, you should only take it as directed and for the shortest time possible. NSAIDs can cause gastrointestinal bleeding, stroke, and heart attack, so you need to be careful to avoid taking too much of this medication.
If NSAIDs are ineffective at relieving your thigh pain, your doctor may recommend other treatments, such as a pain pump or prescription opioids.
4. Try compression stockings
For patients who experience a lot of swelling, compression stockings can provide fast relief. These are inflatable stockings that you wear above your calf muscle on the lower leg. You can use them for about 3 to 5 days following a hip replacement surgery. Putting pressure on the swollen area can reduce the amount of fluid in the surrounding tissue, preventing additional swelling and discomfort.
5. Get up and walk it out
Staying in bed while you are recovering from a hip replacement is not healthy, and can lead to increased pain and a longer recovery time. The best thing to do for thigh pain is to get up and walk it out. This can help your body to quickly move the blood and remove the toxins from the affected area.
Stretching and gentle yoga can further benefit thigh pain after hip replacement. These exercises will help to pre-treat the muscle, promote good muscle tone, and increase range of motion in the joint.
6. Stretching and gentle yoga can further benefit thigh pain after hip replacement
Stretching is crucial after hip replacement surgery, and especially so for those who experience thigh pain. If you don’t stretch, the muscles in your thigh will become short and tight, which can lead to increased joint pain, swelling, and inflammation.
Gentle yoga can be effective at stretching the muscles in your thigh. Try to do yoga twice a day, while being careful to avoid doing anything too strenuous. Be sure to ease yourself back into exercise after the surgery, rather than rushing back to the gym too quickly.
7. Take care of your incision and keep elevated
Your incision site will probably be very sensitive, so it is important to keep it clean and dry. Make sure to wear a surgical garment whenever you are going to be sitting or lying down for an extended period of time. You should also try to keep your thigh elevated when possible, as this will help to promote better blood flow and drainage.
Learn effective self-care techniques
For those who experience severe thigh pain after hip replacement, it can be worth investing in some pain-relieving creams, spray, or gels. It can be difficult to find the right combination of natural treatments to effectively treat thigh pain due to an artificial joint. It is also worth noting that not all thigh pain is caused by a hip replacement, so it can be worth consulting a doctor to rule out other causes.
Thigh pain after hip replacement is often due to mechanical problems, such as nerve damage, excessive adhesions or a ball-socket joint that is too big or too small. The best way to diagnose and treat thigh pain is to rule out these causes and get a thorough history from the patient. Once these factors have been ruled out, the pain is usually easy to treat.
If you’re experiencing thigh pain after surgery, don’t hesitate to contact your doctor. The pain is likely caused by one of the above listed factors and can be easily treated.