What is hip arthritis?
Hip arthritis occurs when the cartilage of the hip joint gradually erodes. Cartilage is a rubbery tissue that allows bones to glide smoothly over one another. Without the cushioning effect of cartilage, the bones of the hip joint rub together. The hip can't move easily and becomes stiff, swollen and painful, particularly with weight-bearing activities.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of hip arthritis. Also called “wear and tear” arthritis, it is a progressive, degenerative disease in which the surface layer of cartilage slowly wears away. Osteoarthritis is especially common among middle-aged and older adults. Obesity and genetics are also contributing factors. Rheumatoid arthritis is another form of hip arthritis. This inflammatory condition, which can occur at any age, is more common in females, and can likewise destroy joint cartilage. It generally affects multiple joints.
What are the symptoms of hip arthritis?
Symptoms associated with hip arthritis develop gradually and may include:
- Pain and stiffness in the hip joint, as well as the groin, outer thigh or buttocks
- Pain that is typically worse in the morning and lessens with activity
- Difficulty walking or walking with a limp
- Pain that worsens with vigorous or extended activity
Over time, you may lose the ability to rotate, flex or extend your hip. It may become hard to simply put on a pair of shoes. Worsening hip arthritis can interfere with daily activities and impact your quality of life.
How is hip arthritis diagnosed?
In addition to a physical exam and patient history, your doctor can use specific tests, such as an X-ray, to diagnose hip arthritis.
What is the treatment?
There is no cure for hip arthritis, but treatment can help slow its progression, reduce pain and increase function.
Patients are encouraged to try these non-operative options first:
Simple weight loss can reduce forces on your hip joint. The less weight the joint has to carry, the less painful activities will be.
Exercise is important to lubricate the hip joint, strengthen surrounding muscles, maintain bone strength and control weight. Non-impact exercises are best. Patients should avoid running and jumping exercises and do more gliding type exercises, such as walking, biking, swimming or using an elliptical trainer. Your doctor or physical therapist can help develop an individualized exercise program that meets your needs and lifestyle.
Acetaminophen, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and topical creams and sprays can combat pain and inflammation. If over-the-counter medications don't provide relief, your doctor may give you a prescription anti-inflammatory drug or other medication to help ease the pain.
Corticosteroids are powerful anti-inflammatory drugs that can be injected directly into the hip to help temporarily relieve pain.
If these non-operative treatments don’t work, modern hip replacement surgery is a good option. It is a safe and effective procedure to relieve pain and help you resume normal activities. In a total hip replacement, the damaged bone and cartilage are removed and replaced with metal, plastic or ceramic parts.
Recovery from hip replacement surgery varies by patient. Advancements in minimally invasive approaches, improved implant material and design, and refined surgical technique have dramatically reduced recovery time. For minimally invasive total hip patients, the typical recovery period is now weeks rather than months. And hospital stays can be as short as one or two days.