Knees and Hips: A troubleshooting guide to knee and hip pain

Do your knees or hips hurt? Most people will at some point have knee or hip pain because these large joints have a demanding task: they must bear the full weight of your body while at the same time allowing for a wide range of motion. Wear and tear, injury, and simple genetic predisposition can all contribute to knee or hip pain. This report covers a wide range of knee and hip conditions and describes in detail treatments, preventive strategies, and surgeries.

Knees and Hips: A troubleshooting guide to knee and hip pain Cover

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Your knees and hips are your largest joints. They support your body's weight and must work in close coordination to provide the mobility most people take for granted, until injury, arthritis, or other problems interfere.

Depending on the cause of your pain, the solution might be a set of exercises, pain relief medication, minor surgery, or some combination of these. But for many people, knee and hip problems become so intractable that the best solution is to replace a worn-out knee or hip with a mechanical joint.

This Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School will walk you through the most common knee and hip ailments, discuss the symptoms you're likely to experience with each, and describe how your doctor might diagnose your condition. Inside Knees and Hips: A troubleshooting guide to knee and hip pain, you'll discover:

  • Why joints hurt
  • How to deal with overuse injuries
  • Solutions to common problems
  • Exercises for pain relief and prevention
  • Indications for surgery
  • Knee and hip replacement options         
  • Alternative approaches

This report also includes a Special Bonus Section: Knee and hip replacement which can help you determine if a joint replacement is right for you. It outlines the procedures, describes the different types of implants, and details the various surgical options available to you.

Whether you've just started to experience pain or have been battling it for years, this Special Health Report is a must-read. It can help you make informed decisions about maintaining your mobility and independence for years to come. Order your copy of Knees and Hips: A troubleshooting guide to knee and hip pain today.

Prepared by the editors of Harvard Health Publications in consultation with, Scott David Martin M.D., assistant professor of orthopedic surgery, Harvard Medical School and Attending Orthopedic Surgeon, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, Mass. 49 pages. (2015)

  • Knees in motion
    • Evaluating knees
    • Overuse injuries of the knee
    • Tears in supporting tissues
    • Kneecap problems
    • Osteoarthritis of the knee
  • Hips on the ball
    • Evaluating hips
    • Overuse injuries
    • Hip fracture
    • Osteoarthritis of the hip
  • Testing for knee and hip problems
    • Imaging techniques
    • Laboratory tests
  • Nonsurgical treatments for knees and hips
    • RICE
    • Pare off pounds
    • Heat
    • Ultrasound, phonophoresis, and iontophoresis
    • Therapeutic exercise
    • Medication
    • Alternative approaches
    • Supplements
    • Arthroscopy
  • Special section: Knee and hip replacement
  • Back on track after joint replacement
    • Guidelines for recovery from knee or hip replacement
  • Living with a replacement joint
    • Revision surgery
  • Resources
  • Glossary

If you are reading this report, you probably have knee or hip pain. That’s not surprising. When responding to a 2010 national health survey, almost a third of Americans 55 or older complained of having knee pain in the previous four weeks. Eleven percent reported having hip pain. Truth be told, nearly everyone will have some deterioration in these joints at some point in life.

Your knees and hips are your largest joints. While supporting your full weight as you stand upright, they must work in close coordination to provide the mobility most of us take for granted until injury, arthritis, or other conditions interfere. Of course, it’s possible to sidestep or delay some of these problems. For example, paring off excess pounds literally takes a load off knees and hips. Starting new activities gradually and progressing slowly rather than dramatically boosting activity levels helps, too. So does avoiding exercises that could harm these joints, such as deep squats and deep lunges.

Even the best laid plans may go awry, however. If you experience pain in your knees or hips, physical therapy, pain-relief medication, minor surgery, or some combination of these strategies may help ease it. Ultimately, though, many people find knee and hip problems become so intractable that the best solution is replacing a worn-out knee or hip with a mechanical joint.

Joint replacement can help people remain independent and active. In the United States, doctors perform about 676,000 knee replacements and 327,000 hip replacements annually. Many people, young and old, gain pain relief and mobility from these procedures.

Medical care is constantly changing. Doctors used to follow these surgeries by immobilizing the joint with a plaster cast. Today, you can begin rehabilitating your knee by starting physical therapy not long after waking up from surgery. More surgeries are performed through tiny incisions using a tool called an arthroscope, often on an outpatient basis. Pain relief has progressed to include drugs that tackle the twin problems of pain and inflammation.

These advances translate into vastly improved lives. Recently, after performing a rotator cuff repair on a patient’s shoulder, I reminded him to come in for a follow-up visit for his hip replacement. Looking surprised, he admitted that he’d completely forgotten he’d had a total hip replacement four years earlier. He’d since returned to an active lifestyle and the new hip had become a part of him.

The proper care can help you reclaim the life you enjoy, too. Whether you’ve just started to experience pain or have been battling it for years, this report will help you make informed decisions about staying active and independent for years to come.

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