View Full Version : Hip arthritis and hip replacements in swimmers

December 10th, 2013, 05:12 PM
I have been diagnosed with advanced arthritis in both hips. I'm only 49. I'm being told I'll need the hips replaced sooner than later. I have been training hard and competing successfully for the past several years. Breaststroke is my competitive event. Does anyone have experience with arthritic hips? Can you advise if you think swimming (and swimming breaststroke) has made things worse or better. I usually swim 5-6x week, up to about 3500 yards per workout. I am a healthy eater, a personal trainer for a living, very flexible, take supplements for these conditions etc.
Also if anyone out there is swimming with artificial hips, would you please share your experience. Many thanks.

Old BrsStrk
December 12th, 2013, 10:27 AM
I too consider breaststroke to be my best one. It took me over 3 yrs after my Doc told me I needed a new hip before I got it. The pain was bad, but what convinced me to get it was that I was DQ'd at Nationals for an improper frog kick (this being my first BR DQ in more than 50 years of competitive swimming!). Just could not kick properly. Hard to say whether 3 yrs.of training made hip worse than it would have been absent training. But I feel that kicking frog was probably hard on the joint. It has been 14 mos. since the replacement, and I am glad that I got it. Regaining a strong frog kick has been the slowest swim function to return. But I am back training and competing, and more important, I am pain free.

December 12th, 2013, 02:27 PM
WEll - If the new 2013 hip parts are better than the piece of **** Smith & nelson I got in 1999, yeah, the ones you see on tv as bad hips, then go for it. I have told others to go ahead with the newer parts & they seem to do fine in all 4 strokes.

December 12th, 2013, 02:57 PM
Hi Texas Lisa,

Sorry to hear about your diagnosis. Welcome to the forum. I wish you all the best in your recovery. ♥ ♥ ♥

December 12th, 2013, 05:40 PM
Lisa, I feel your pain- literally! I could have written your post, except that I'm 51 and not a personal trainer. In addition to a boatload of other physical breakdowns that are hereditary (in my case), my left hip has quickly taken a dump and my right hip is not far behind. Like you, I am a breaststroker and have a similar training schedule.

I will be curious to read the responses to this thread, so thanks for posting!

December 12th, 2013, 05:59 PM
Just want to thank you, and the others, for taking the time to respond. I'm trying to retain an "attitude of gratitude" that my issue is not life threatening. At the same time, swimming and competing is such a big part of my life, the thought of losing any part of it is hard to handle. One day at a time, hoping a steroid injection into the hip will cool things off for a period of time. I'll keep updating as I see specialists and share anything useful I uncover. Best!

December 13th, 2013, 08:24 AM
At the age of 28 I was diagnosed with Ankylosing spondylitis. A form of arthritis. This is what really sparked my interest back up in swimming. Breast is one of my favorite practice strokes while the free is my favorite in competitions. I would recommend if you could during practices to wear a tigher suit that will come down the thigh. Briefs for men are best for breast as they allow greater hip rotation. If you were to wear a competition style jammer it would prevent the over rotation in the hip that is normally looked for and thus help in the pain. This would be my advice. Would still allow for you to do the stroke you allow but also not allow you to over rotate. I have not had any replacement surgery's but I have family who has had them and they have all been advised to SWIM! Stay positive.

December 13th, 2013, 11:22 AM
Lisa - when looking for Docs. ask about references, time it should last, replacement of that hip manufacture & maker.Many have very good results better than mine from the old [1999] hip parts.that are now [2013] used. When the staples come out , light workouts in the pool are ok. Limit hard turns & starts for a while.

January 21st, 2014, 03:04 AM
I am 51 and having issues with my right hip (torn labrum). The ortho predicts a hip replacement in 10 years, but I am having issues now. Have had a cortisone shot, but that seemed to only dull the pain for a couple of weeks. So I'm looking at alternative treatments (chiro, sports therapy, etc.) to see how long I can last (don't think I will make it to 10 years).

A couple of questions: have noticed that big push-offs in the pool can REALLY aggravate it. The tough part is that I get frustrated while swimming as my kicking, push-offs and time have been affected by my gimpy hip. Any suggestions of how to push effectively off the side without putting too much strain on the hip? How about a modified kicking position? Any tips on mentally adjusting to the onset of time? I have been feeling a little depressed because of all of this. It's frustrating to tell the thearapist that I am already doing the exercise they recommend the most and I sometimes feel that is about to be jeopardized as well.

Thanks in advance for any tips/suggestions/links, etc.

January 21st, 2014, 12:58 PM
I know it's tough but, you will need to dial back on what your have done in the past. You will know when it is time to get a replacement when you hurt so much that it takes over your life & swimming. Many of us that have gone thru this, say "I wish I would have done it
sooner " the pain is something that we have all lived with for too long. Good luck wit adapting, but ---- you will.

January 21st, 2014, 05:27 PM

I just turned 52 yesterday and have arthritis in my hips (it's bad in my left hip since my leg is 1/2 inch longer than my right). My doctor told me pretty much the same thing, so I feel your pain. At this point, I am forgoing coritsone and doing my PT exercises diligently which has helped. When I have to, I pop a Zipsor, although I try to avoid NSAIDs most of the time.

Big push-offs and block starts aggravate my hips as well. I'm a mess after a swim meet! If anybody out there has good advice on a good push-off technique (off the blocks or wall), I will be interested as well.

The mental adjustment is hard, I know. I had to make mental adjustments years ago when major surgery forced me to give up some of the activities I loved, including kayak surfing. Since getting back into swimming and joining USMS four years ago, I have had to make further adjustments in my training and racing due to several physical issues.

Fortunately, in swimming, we have two arms, two legs, and four strokes. I try to approach it with a glass half-full attitude. When my hip is still in pain after warm-up (which is usually the case for several days or even weeks after a swim meet), I have to cut back on kicking and push off the wall softly. On freestyle, I basically use my legs for balance, and on breaststroke, I work on my pull with an easy dolphin kick. It comes down to finding a work-around on those days when the pain is greater.

Time goals are also off the table, because I never know when one of my various body parts in question is going to :bitching:. Genetically, I'm a mess with a body not built for the long haul; however, if I didn't swim six days/week, I would be doing a lot worse :cane:. I hate how I feel on my day off, but I know my muscles need a day to recover.

If it comes down to swimming my races instead of all-out racing my races, so be it. It has taken a lot mentally to be able to accept it, but the alternative is worse. I can't imagine not showing up at a meet and missing out on the fun, friendship, and competition, even if I can't compete at my best. At Mission Viejo Nationals, I was a wreck and my times were a total embarrassment; however, I had a blast just being there!

Hoodoo, do you compete? If so, give some thought to thinking outside of the box for future meets. Is there a stroke that is less painful for you and easier on your hip? Even if it's not your best stroke, think about trying it in competition. Perhaps go for high points at a meet instead of personal best times, and sign up for those less-painful events. For me, my right shoulder has significant arthritis and can't handle the fast turnover rate of sprint fly any more; however, it does fine in a controlled slow 200 fly (or even longer). The long glide and easy kick is hip-friendly, too, so it has become an event I like to "race," even though I am slow at it. Along with 400 IM, it earns me points that make winning high points awards a lot more feasible than getting a best time in my core events.

Feel free to send me a PM any time you need to :blah: , as I can empathize with what you are going through.

January 21st, 2014, 05:56 PM
Elainek just about sums it up. "Improvise+ adapt + overcome" seems to work for those of us that are "falling apart"

January 23rd, 2014, 01:24 AM
Thank you very much, Elaine and orca194, for your responses to my posting. I always forget the vast support network available through USMS and am feeling more upbeat ...

In regards to my swim history: I am relatively new to swimming. I started with our local masters program about 4 years ago - wasn't involved with team swimming previously (I was a band geek in high school). So I have always been 'behind' all the other swimmers in regards to the other swimmers while also being one of the older swimmers (I am perpetually in the slowest lane). I only particpate in open water swims (more anonymous than pool meets) and (thankfully) the cold water feels really good on my 'hot' hip ...

In regards to pool swimming: I was getting to a point of improving my times when the hip started giving me issues. So newer masters swimmers began to swim faster than me and move up lanes while I am still slogging around in the slow lane. Swimming is pretty much a solitary sport, but I have not perfected the use of 'mental blinders' so I get hung up on how fast everyone else is swimming compared to me. So I have been feeling pretty bummed lately. Your posts cheered me up (thanks!) mainly because you confirmed what I have been quietly telling myself: to cut myself some slack, to make some adjustments and just get back in the pool and swim as long as it doesn't kill me and not worry about what everyone else is doing.

My coaches have been pressing me to try at least a couple of events at pool meets so I am considering that for 2014 ... always good to have a goal! Thanks again for your support!

The Fortress
January 23rd, 2014, 10:41 AM
You might consider trying platelet rich plasma injections or it's newest iteration, plasma lysing. https://www.treatingpain.com/diagnosis-treatments/platelet-rich-plasma-prp. I've used this to rehab some small tears/tendon degradation in my shoulder and elbow. It's not typically covered by insurance, but it's worked for me to fix pain.

January 23rd, 2014, 06:28 PM
Do not put yourself down for being"slower" than others --- you are in the pool. Many others do not even try when they are healthy!!!