Hip Arthritis (Symptoms & Treatment)

Arthritis of the hip is extremely common affecting both young and old. Younger patients may suffer arthritic pain in their hips due to previous injuries to the joint, or due to abnormally shaped hips (dysplasia). Early and mild arthritis is successfully treated with physical therapy, activity modification and medication.

What is it?

Arthritis (inflammation and pain of a joint) is caused by damage to the cartilage covering the joint surfaces.

How is it caused?

It is often caused by age related wear and tear, but osteoarthritis can also be caused by abnormalities of the hip due to other conditions such as Poor blood supply to the cartilage (Avascular Necrosis), abnormally shaped joints (Hip Dysplasia), and Injuries to the joint (from Fractures, repetitive trauma or infection).

What are the symptoms?

Pain: These include a dull ache in the hips, groin, buttocks, thighs and sometimes the knees. The pain may come and go or be constant. In some cases, pain may make it difficult to walk long distances without limping.  Often the pain is worse after activity, and pain at night can disturb your sleep.

Stiffness: Going upstairs and bending down to tie shoes or put socks on may also be more difficult.

How is it diagnosed?

After discussing your symptoms, the specialist will usually back up the diagnosis with X-rays and MRI or CT scans to show the extent of damage to the cartilage and to see if there is an underlying cause.

How is it treated?

Non-operative treatment: this includes taking anti-inflammatory medication, if advised by your doctor, along with a rehabilitation programme of gentle exercises to improve your strength and range of movement. Weight loss, combined with using an exercise bike, can be very effective in the early stages. However, arthritis is a progressive condition that will become worse over time.

Surgery: Hip replacement is the only treatment that can ‘cure’ hip arthritis but is only advised when pain is significantly affecting your everyday life.

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