Osteoarthritis of the Hip

Osteoarthritis, also called degenerative joint disease, is the most common form of arthritis. It occurs most often in older people but is being diagnosed with increasing frequency in younger patients. This disease affects the tissue covering the ends of bones in a joint (cartilage). In a person with osteoarthritis, the cartilage becomes damaged and worn out causing pain, swelling, stiffness and restricted movement in the affected joint. Osteoarthritis may affect various joints including the hips, knees, hands, and spine. Less commonly, the disease may affect the shoulders, wrists and feet.

Osteoarthritis is characterized by damaged articular cartilage (cartilage lining the hip joint). Advanced age is one of the most common reasons for osteoarthritis of hip. You may also develop osteoarthritis if you had hip injury or fracture in the past, if you have family history of osteoarthritis, or are suffering from hip diseases such as avascular necrosis and other congenital or developmental hip diseases.

How do you know that you have osteoarthritis of hip? Hip arthritis typically causes pain in the groin or front of the thigh often described as a pulled muscle that never goes away.  At times the pain may radiate to the knee and, in rare cases, knee pain may be more severe than hip pain.  Along with pain, hip arthritis usually causes loss of range of motion (stiffness) in the hip that may make it difficult to put on shoes and socks, get out of a chair, climb stairs, or get in and out of bed.  Many patients with hip arthritis develop a limp that worsens over time.

Management of Osteoarthritis

There are several treatments and lifestyle modifications that can help to ease your pain and symptoms.

  • Medications: Pain-relieving medications such as NSAIDs, COX-2 inhibitors and acetaminophen may be prescribed.  Opioids are rarely indicated for the treatment of arthritic pain. Topical medications such as ointments can be applied over the skin where there is pain. If the pain is severe, corticosteroid injection can be given directly into the affected joint to ease the pain.
  • Other Treatments: Your physical therapist will teach you exercises to keep joints flexible and improve muscle strength. Heat/cold therapy which involves applying heat or cold packs to the joints provides temporary pain relief. Lifestyle modifications can be done to control weight and avoid extra stress on the weight-bearing joints.
  • Surgery: Hip joint replacement surgery is considered as an option when the pain is so severe that it affects your ability to carry out normal activities.