The Diagnosis and Treament of Hip Arthritis

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Hip arthritis is a common condition that causes problems of the ball-and-socket joint at the junction of the pelvis and lower extremity. When arthritis occurs, the normal joint becomes inflamed and painful. There are many different types of arthritis than can cause pain in the hip joint.

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of hip arthritis. Also called wear-and-tear arthritis or degenerative joint disease, osteoarthritis is characterized by progressive wearing away of the cartilage of the joint.

As the protective cartilage is worn away by hip arthritis, bare bone is exposed within the joint.

Hip arthritis typically affects patients over 50 years of age. It is more common in people who are overweight, and weight loss tends to reduce the symptoms associated with hip arthritis. There is also a genetic predisposition of this condition, meaning hip arthritis tends to run in families. Other factors that can contribute to developing hip arthritis include traumatic injuries to the hip and fractures to the bone around the joint.

Other types of hip arthritis including rheumatoid arthritis and other types of autoimmune spondyloarthropathies. While some of the conditions may have particular nuances to their treatments, many of the principles of treatment are the same.

Signs of Hip Arthritis

Hip arthritis symptoms tend to progress as the condition worsens. What is interesting about hip arthritis is that symptoms do not always progress steadily with time.

Often patients report good months and bad months or symptom changes with weather changes. This is important to understand because comparing the symptoms of hip arthritis on one particular day may not accurately represent the overall progression of the condition.

The most common symptoms of hip arthritis are:​

  • Pain with activities
  • Limited range of motion
  • Stiffness of the hip
  • Walking with a limp
  • Pain in the groin, thigh, or knee

Evaluation of a patient with hip arthritis should begin with a physical examination and x-rays. These can serve as a baseline to evaluate later examinations and determine progression of the condition.

Hip Arthritis Treatment

Treatment of hip arthritis should begin with the most basic steps, and progress to the more involved, possibly including surgery. Not all treatments are appropriate in every patient, and you should have a discussion with your doctor to determine which treatments are appropriate for your hip arthritis.

  • Weight Loss
    Probably one of the most important, yet least commonly performed treatments. The less weight the joint has to carry, the less painful activities will be.
  • Activity Modification
    Limiting certain activities may be necessary, and learning new exercise methods may be helpful.
  • Walking Aids
    Use of a cane or a single crutch is the hand opposite the affected hip will help decrease the demand placed on the arthritic joint.
  • Physical Therapy
    Strengthening of the muscles around the hip joint may help decrease the burden on the hip. Preventing atrophy of the muscles is an important part of maintaining functional use of the hip


Hoaglund FT and Steinbach LS "Primary Osteoarthritis of the Hip: Etiology and Epidemiology" J. Am. Acad. Ortho. Surg., September/October 2001; 9: 320 - 327.

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