The hip is composed of two bones, the femur and the pelvis, that form a ball-and-socket joint. This configuration allows for the range of motion necessary for movement and supports the weight of the body. The femoral head forms the ball portion of the joint while the acetabulum forms the socket. The area where these two bones touch is coated in articular cartilage. This type of cartilage allows for the bones to glide smoothly over each other. In the osteoarthritic joint, this cartilage degenerates, resulting in painful bone-on-bone rubbing, further defect, and bone spurs.
What causes hip arthritis?
Factors that may contribute to hip arthritis include joint injury, increasing age, and being overweight. Other possible causes of osteoarthritis can include:
- Improperly formed joints
- Genetic (inherited) defects in the cartilage
- Extra stress on joints, either by being overweight or through activities that involve the hip
Typically, patients with osteoarthritis go through a progression of symptoms. Initially, the hip may be stiff and painful with certain movements, and pain in the groin develops. This may be most noticeable in the morning, during activity or after sitting for an extended period of time. Eventually, inflammation and painful grinding develops and the hip may become so uncomfortable that it wakes you up at night.
How is hip arthritis diagnosed?
A thorough physical exam and X-rays are crucial to diagnosing hip OA. X-rays allow your physician to see the bony anatomy of the hip and, in conjunction with your symptoms, help to determine the extent of your osteoarthritis.
How is hip arthritis treated?
The severity of your osteoarthritis will determine the most appropriate course
of action. Your physician may recommend any of the following to help relieve
Anti-Inflammatory Medication: Oral anti-inflammatories may be effective at decreasing inflammation due to injury. However, some people suffer from side effects while taking them. If you experience anything unusual when taking these medications, contact your physician immediately to determine if continued use is appropriate.
Physical Therapy: Your physician may prescribe several sessions with a physical therapist to increase your range of motion and strength and decrease your pain. After several visits, your therapist may recommend a home exercise program to help maintain any gains you have achieved during therapy.
Activity Modification: Patients with arthritis typically have to undergo some lifestyle modifications. If specific activities make your symptoms worse, then avoiding those activities can provide relief. Low-impact exercise such as cycling, elliptical, swimming, and light strength training are the best options.
Steroid Injections: A steroid injection allows your physician to place anti-inflammatory medication directly inside the joint. This can result in dramatic and potentially long-term relief of pain and swelling. In order to ensure that the medication is placed directly into the joint, your physician may recommend the injection be done under X-ray or ultrasound. Your physician’s patient coordinator can help you find a provider and schedule the injection.
Total Hip Replacement: In severe cases of arthritis, your physician may recommend a hip replacement. In this procedure, diseased and damaged cartilage and bone are removed and replaced with artificial components. The techniques and prosthetics used in this surgery have made significant advances over the past decade. Patients who undergo a total joint replacement are getting more use out of their new joint than ever before.
Together, you and your physician will decide on the most appropriate treatment to provide you with maximum relief.
How can I prevent hip osteoarthritis?
There are things you can do to reduce the risk of developing hip osteoarthritis. The less stress you put on your joints, the less likely they are to wear out prematurely. Try to:
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Exercise to strengthen muscles around joints
- Use good posture
- Rest if joint pain starts to bother you
- Start new activities slowly and safely until you know how your body will react
When patients complain of hip pain, we’ll try first to treat pain with nonsurgical treatment. If conservative treatments fail to control pain, Dr. Hansen explains the available surgical options you might consider.
Will your age affect the success of your hip replacement surgery? Dr. Wickum weighs in with his observations, based on extensive experience.