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After being away from sports since his college days,
Steve decided it was time to get back in shape and back into the game. Squash (an indoor racquet sport) and weight training topped his list of activities to enjoy again.
And he did for a while—until arthritis turned his enjoyment into pain.
Steve first thought
something might be wrong when he couldn't make it through a squash game without
feeling pain. He moved around the court just fine. But as soon as he
stopped, his left hip would freeze up and hurt. "I would be very stiff, and I
would have a hard time walking the next day," he says.
the stiffness and pain in my hip was just from the stress I was putting on my
muscles," Steve says. "But when I changed my exercise routine or stopped
working out, the pain was still there. And it was getting worse."
The pain began to interfere with other things in his life. As a
university professor, he found it hard to stand and teach all day. "I would
have shooting pain up and down my leg and back," he says. "I would have to
shift my weight, sit down, or just try to find positions that weren't so
painful." Trips to Europe and Asia were "sheer torture," says Steve.
He also found it hard to sleep at night. "The pain would come and go. It wasn't a sharp pain, but a kind of ache that would keep me awake
a lot. I could never stay in one position for very long."
For several years, Steve
dealt with his pain as best he could, even if that meant he walked with a limp.
He would take an over-the-counter pain medicine every day and keep busy to take
his mind off the pain.
When Steve couldn't deal with the pain
anymore, he went to see a doctor. An X-ray showed that he had arthritis in his
hip. Steve's doctor suggested that he have his hip replaced.
was only 46 years old at the time. "I wasn't sure about having surgery since I
was so young. I had heard that an artificial hip could give out in 10 to 20
years," he says. "I was worried that I might need to get another one later on.
I was also concerned about the risks of having surgery."
decided to wait. He wasn't ready to have the surgery so early in his life.
Instead, he started to take a prescription anti-inflammatory medicine to help
relieve the pain. It helped for a while.
"But when the medicine I was
taking stopped working, I figured I had gone as far as I could go with this
and decided to go ahead with the surgery," Steve says.
At age 55,
Steve got a new hip, and he's happy that he did. "I was pretty much pain-free
after about a month and a half. It's a strange feeling to be able to walk
without a limp and to walk up and down stairs without grabbing onto the
He encourages others who might need surgery to find a
doctor they can trust. Steve also says it’s important to ask a lot of questions
and be clear on the risks and benefits of having the surgery. And, if it's
possible, he suggests that people try to relieve the pain with medicine and
exercise first, especially if their pain isn't really bad, because it may help
for a while.
Even though Steve had to give up playing squash after
his surgery, he’s now back to enjoying other activities that once caused him
pain, such as traveling overseas and sightseeing. "I could barely make it
through a small part of the day," he says. "Now, these things are a pleasure
Steve's story reflects his experiences as told in an interview. The photograph is not of Steve, to protect his privacy.
For more information, see the topic
April 9, 2013
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & Stanford M. Shoor, MD - Rheumatology
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