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Hip osteoarthritis is a common cause of hip pain and stiffness. We look at its symptoms and available treatments for osteoarthritis
The hip also plays an important role in retaining balance of the body.
The hip is normally hard to damage through injury because it is a deep and stable joint, covered by soft tissue, muscle and cartilage. However, because of the hip joint’s mobility, it is susceptible to natural wear and tear as well as disease. Any pain symptom in the hip can have a major impact on your ability to carry out everyday tasks, such as shopping or exercising.
While there are many causes of pain or stiffness in the hips, the most common type of arthritis, known as osteoarthritis (OA), is one of the main culprits. Osteoarthritis affects the articular cartilage on the surface of the bones, causing them to breakdown. Arthritis is a condition that affects the joints of the body. It affects millions of people in the UK, and while arthritis becomes more likely as we age it can occur in people of all ages, including children.
While osteoarthritis is the most common cause of hip pain, treatments and medical support are available for other types of arthritis as well, such as rheumatoid arthritis. There is currently no known cure for arthritis, but a range of treatments can help reduce symptoms and manage pain.
While the specific causes of osteoarthritis of the hip remain unclear, there are several factors known to increase the risk of developing it. These include:
The main symptoms of osteoarthritis in the hip include:
It is important to note that these symptoms are not exclusively caused by osteoarthritis. Other illnesses, injuries and diseases can also show similar symptoms. However, they are often a good indicator that something is not quite right with your hip. If you have any of these symptoms you should see a doctor who will be able to help give you an accurate diagnosis.
Nobody knows your hip pain better than you. When you first see your doctor, they will talk with you about your medical history and what you have been doing to manage the pain.
The doctor will examine your hip, thigh and lower back, assessing your range of movement in the joint and the extent of any problems. Hip pain can sometimes occur due to a problem in your back, so this will also be looked at in order to rule out the possibility of referred pain.
Depending on your medical history and the examination, your doctor may arrange for you to have some diagnostic tests to help diagnose osteoarthritis as well as treatment options. These tests may include:
Unless your osteoarthritis is at an advanced stage, your doctor will usually start with non-surgical treatments first.
Pain relief: Over-the-counter pain medication, such as paracetamol, can help with hip arthritis pain relief. Analgesia is the medical term for pain relief. As osteoarthritis develops, the pain relief you get from paracetamol may decrease, and your doctor may suggest using a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) such as ibuprofen for osteoarthritis pain relief. As well as relieving pain, these can also help to reduce inflammation. Some NSAIDs can be purchased over the counter from your local pharmacy, while others will need a prescription for certain osteoarthritis medications.
Physiotherapy: Often, people struggling with hip pain discover that an easy way to reduce the pain is by lowering their activity levels. However, this can actually add to the problem, as less activity leads to the hip becoming stiffer. As the joint tightens in this way, movement becomes more difficult. A physiotherapist can help to strengthen the muscles around your hip to compensate for the effects of osteoarthritis. Physical therapy may help to restore and maintain function and mobility in the hip for longer than would otherwise be achieved. This can help to delay the need for hip replacement surgery to treat severe arthritis.
Exercise: While hip osteoarthritis causes pain and stiffness in the joint, it is important that you continue to use the hip in order to stop it seizing up completely. There will be limits to what you can do safely and without causing further pain, but hip osteoarthritis exercises are beneficial for long-term health as well as for helping keep your hip moving. Swimming is one of the best exercises for osteoarthritis, as the buoyancy and support provided by the water reduces the stress (also known as the ‘load’) placed on the joint.
Weight loss: If you are overweight, then losing weight can help to reduce the pain you feel in your hip as a result of osteoarthritis.
Steroid injections: As osteoarthritis progresses in the hip joint, pain and stiffness usually becomes worse. Painkillers may be less effective in managing the pain. Steroid injections (also known as corticosteroid injections) can be helpful. These anti-inflammatory medicines help to reduce swelling in the hip joint and the surrounding area, reducing pain and stiffness.
When hip osteoarthritis progresses to the extent it is no longer being successfully managed by non-surgical means, your doctor will talk with you about the possibility of surgery, such as hip resurfacing.
Should osteoarthritis in your hip joint develop to the point you are in constant discomfort and have extremely limited movement, a total hip replacement may be advised as the best treatment for you. Hip replacement surgery can be a life-changing procedure for many people.
During total hip replacement surgery, the damaged and worn bones of the hip joint are replaced with a metal implant. This new artificial hip joint removes the problems caused by the worn articular cartilage of osteoarthritis and is designed to provide friction-free movement. This improves the mobility of the joint, while also helping to reduce the pain and stiffness in the hip joint.