hip arthritis and hip replacement

Part 1: My body used to fix itself…sadly it doesn’t any more. A shocking true story of middle age arthritis.

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Part 1 of a multi-part story of middle age arthritis, and my journey to a hip replacement.

Last night I cried out in bed. No, it wasn’t what you’re thinking. It was because of the pain of middle age arthritis. It was loud enough to stop my wife snoring, which was some consolation. But as I lay there trying to get back to sleep, I couldn’t help feeling a stab of regret that now in middle age the injuries, aches and pains stayed with me. Gone was the default “give it a couple of days” recovery process. Now it is more of a “get it checked out” process. My body used to fix itself, but sadly it doesn’t any more.

I’ve always been active. Football, squash, rugby, golf… in fact any sport was my thing. I was never great, but I was a trier. Of course that was a recipe for injuries, and I’ve had a few. Broken arm, hand, collar bone, nose and dislocated finger. Add to that torn cartilage (both knees), stitches in my head and chin (multiple times) and many others and you get the idea. I overtried.

However when I reached middle age I noticed things change. I couldn’t recover as fast and gradually the sports started to drop off. It finally hit the buffers with a visit to a specialist about hip pain that was not going away. I was still playing squash at the time, along with other overweight middle aged blokes (who liked playing games inside in the warm as I did). It was my thing. And unusually for me I was quite good.

Middle age arthritis. At my age? Really?

“You’ve got grade 4 arthritis,” said the consultant jovially. “Worst you can have. Both hips, but the left is particularly bad hence the pain.”

Middle age arthritis caused by bone spur rubbing the cartilage away
Bone spur causes the damage

I smiled back. “So how long before it’s better?”

“Ah. That’s the point. This doesn’t get better until you have a hip replacement. It’s degenerative. It will only get worse.”

I was staggered. A hip replacement was for old people, not 40-somethings. It turned out I had been playing the “wrong” sports. With my funny shaped hip joints, the twisting and turning had worn away pretty much everything in between the bones. Apparently I was unlucky. Middle age arthritis is uncommon but not unheard of A different sport, or less sport, and there would be no issue.

BBC News: Rise in hip replacements for under 60s

The number of hip replacement operations on people aged under 60 has risen 76% in the last decade, NHS figures for England reveal.

In actual fact Andy Murray had the same problem, so at least I was on a level with other sporting pantheons. Although obviously he was younger, fitter and had a wealth of healthcare support alongside him.

“Does that mean I won’t be able to play squash any more?” I asked nervously.

Then came the killer blow. “Well, not really. I mean, you have to look at yourself. You’re not a young man any more.”

So there it was. Old. No recovery without some serious medical intervention and even then if I had a replacement hip now, I’d need another later on (assuming I lived into my seventies).

For me this was a hammer blow on many levels. Something I’d once said was more fun than sex was now denied to me because of my age (a bit like sex, but that’s another story).

Operation and recovery. Of sorts.

I sulked for a few weeks. I tried all the treatments – a steroid injection, pain killers including CBD, but to no avail. My body which had used to fix itself now couldn’t even be fixed.

I ended up having a hip arthroscopy where they tried to reshape my hip joint to remove the spur that was causing the pain, and the arthritis. Aside from some time off work, sympathy, and the chance to watch a box set or two it didn’t really help.

Some bruising and holes from the midlife arthritis operation. It's not sexy
Not sexy. How it looks after

Eventually I roused myself to consider alternatives to keep me sane. I invested in some Lycra and started cycling. I went swimming. I even became a gym bunny. Well, if you can call a middle aged bloke in saggy shorts and t-shirt a gym bunny. It all helped, after all exercise is good for the mind and soul.

Exercises you can do with midlife arthritis
Be proud of being middle-aged in lycra

However it has taken me a long time to come to terms with the finality. No more squash, football, or rugby. They’re lost to me now unless I try for the hip replacement. Middle age, for all the self help guides and encouragement, is the beginning of a decline. It hasn’t helped being made redundant.

Keeping yourself sane is key, so alternatives must be found. The positive is that no one cares what you look like anymore, so you can invest in the Lycra and reveal all, or sweat like a pig in dodgy t-shirts. Failing that just grow a belly in the pub.

The story of middle age arthritis and how I decided to resolve it continues here (part 2).

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