Famed pop singer Billy Joel, 61, is really hip now. The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer -- creator of 1970s megahits "Piano Man," and "New York State of Mind," and baby boom anthem "We Didn't Start the Fire" (1989), and who last year went out on tour with Elton John -- checked into the hospital for double hip replacement surgery over the Thanksgiving holiday.
Hip replacement is a common procedure these days, especially for people over 50, and it's judged to be an operation that produces spectacular results. A friend of B's had both her hips replaced last year. She claims it changed her life. There was no more pain, which offered her greater mobility, which in turn gave her more self-confidence. The whole experience also motivated the friend to lose about 40 pounds, and since she was 50 or 60 pounds overweight, that was a good thing for her.
The hip is a ball and socket joint. The ball at the upper end of the femur (thigh) bone fits into a socket at the bottom of the pelvis. Cartilage around the end of the bones normally cushions the joint, providing easy, pain-free movement. For any number of reasons -- injury, arthritis, genetic predisposition -- the joint can become inflamed, the cartilage wears away, and you begin to experience pain and stiffness. People with long legs are prone to hip problems. So are people who are overweight.
Treatment for a hip problem starts with losing weight, doing flexibility exercises, and taking anti-inflammatory pain relievers such as Advil (a brand of ibuprofen). Hip replacement is an option if less invasive strategies don't work. The surgeon switches out the damaged ball at the top of your femur with a metal or ceramic ball, and replaces the damaged socket in your pelvis with a metal or ceramic socket. If both hips are damaged, they can be done at the same time, called bilateral hip replacement.
The internet offers plenty more information on hip replacement. Sinai Hospital is a good place to start.
Meantime, Billy Joel is said to be doing well and is expected to return to his Long Island home by the end of the weekend. But judging by recent photos, he could lose a few pounds. If he does, maybe he'll do as well as B's friend. And he'll soon be back on the road with Elton John.