Hip arthritis commonly describes the most common form of hip pain, which is known medically as hip osteoarthritis. Hip osteoarthritis is a joint disease that mostly affects your hip joint cartilage. Articular cartilage is the hard slippery surface that covers the sections of bones that move against each other in your hip joint. Healthy articular cartilage allows your hip joint bones to smoothly and painlessly glide over each other and also helps to absorb any shock forces not dispersed by your hip muscles.
What causes Hip Arthritis?
Hip osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis affecting your hip. Unlike some other forms of arthritis, osteoarthritis affects only joints and not internal organs. It is becoming more common with an ageing population. However, it can also occur in younger people, especially where there is a history of hip injury or heavy work.
In hip osteoarthritis, the top layer of articular cartilage breaks down and wears away. Eventually the bone that lies under the cartilage rubs together to cause pain, swelling, grating and loss of hip joint motion.
Muscle weakness, and the resultant hip joint instability associated, is thought to contribute towards the further deterioration of your hip joint cartilage. Weaker hip muscles also provide less shock absorption capabilities than their strong counterparts, which increases your hip joint compression forces.
Hip arthritis usually happens gradually over time.
Some risk factors that might increase your likelihood of deterioration include:
- Being overweight
- Previous joint injury
- Muscle weakness
- Stresses on the joints from certain jobs and playing sports
- Poor biomechanics
- Malformed joints or a genetic defect in your joint cartilage
What are the symptoms of Hip Arthritis?
Hip arthritis results in hip pain – this can be felt deep in the front of the hip, in the groin region, the buttock, or even in the knee. Patients will also complain of joint weakness, instability and restrictions of movement that interfere with your most basic daily tasks such as walking, climbing stairs or driving.
Your symptoms can develop suddenly or slowly and may include:
- Hip stiffness, particularly early morning stiffness
- Hip joint movement is difficult, especially inward rotation, movement of the leg across the body and hip extension
- Weak hip muscles, especially during sit to stand, squatting and stair climbing
How do I know if I have Hip Arthritis?
Your Leading Edge Physiotherapist will examine your hip with special range of motion tests, as well as taking a detailed history of the activities that aggravate your hip condition and its associated history of onset. These details can often lead to a provisional diagnosis of hip osteoarthritis.
How do you treat Hip Arthritis?
The disease process of hip arthritis is generally progressive – but the rate of this progression and the severity of symptoms can be markedly reduced with appropriate conservative treatment. Leading Edge physiotherapists are well placed to apply to most evidence-based treatments that can help reduce the symptoms of hip arthritis and the progression of the disease process.
The first thing to do in any case of hip arthritis is to reduce the pain the patient is experiencing. This can be done by:
- Regular application of ice packs to reduce your hip pain
- Discussing the prescription of NSAIDs or anti-inflammatory drugs (i.e. neurofen) with your doctor
- Your physiotherapist will use an array of treatment techniques to reduce your hip pain and inflammation. These may include: ice, dry needling, soft tissue massage and the temporary use of a mobility aid (eg walking stick) to off-load the affected side
It is also important to restore the normal movement and strength in the joint, which often deteriorates over time due to the pain associated with the arthritis. Your physiotherapist will turn their attention to restoring your normal muscle length and resting tension, muscle strength and endurance, proprioception, balance and gait (walking pattern).
The final stage of your hip arthritis rehabilitation is aimed at returning you to your desired activities. Everyone has different demands for their hips that will determine what specific treatment goals you need to achieve. For some it be simply to walk around the block.
Your physiotherapist will tailor your hip rehabilitation to help you achieve your own functional goals.
Will I need surgery?
Hip osteoarthritis is a condition that gradually deteriorates even though your pain may come and go in the initial stages.
In addition to your hip muscle control, your physiotherapist will assess you hip biomechanics and start correcting any defects. It may be as simple as providing your will core abdominal exercises or some foot orthotics to address any biomechanical faults in the legs or feet. Your physiotherapist will guide you.
Your aim for any exercise or physiotherapy program is to delay the deterioration of your hip arthritis. Your best chance is have have strong hip muscles and bones performing activities that don’t traumatise your hip joint surfaces.
Hip surgery is usually required as your hip joint arthritis deteriorates and your hip joint becomes permanently deformed.
The most common surgical procedure for an arthritic hip is a total hip replacement. Your hip surgeon may also recommend arthroscopic surgery or joint resurfacing.
Your prognosis following a total hip replacement is very good. In most cases, you will have no or considerably less pain plus improved hip function.
You will require a post-operative hip strengthening and rehabilitation program to prolong the life of your new hip and resume your most active lifestyle.
For more information about hip surgery, please talk to your Leading Edge physiotherapist or we can refer you onto our network of excellent GPs or Orthopaedic Surgeons.
I have Hip Arthritis, what can I do right now?
Lose weight. You won’t just look better, you’ll feel better, too. Why? Every extra kilogram you carry around translates to added stress to your hip joints. Excess weight can mean more hip pain, no matter which form of arthritis you have.
When your hip joint is hot and inflamed, applying something cold can decrease pain and swelling by constricting blood vessels and preventing fluids from leaking into surrounding tissues.
Follow your doctor’s advice. Some medications will be designed for pain relief and others to reduce inflammation. Since most hip osteoarthritis sufferers normally have other medications, it is always wise to check with your doctor before changing.
Exercise – Keep Moving
Exercise helps to lessen your hip pain, increase your hip joint range of movement, reduce fatigue and help you feel better overall.
A well-rounded exercise routine for people with hip osteoarthritis includes flexibility exercises to increase your hip joint and muscle range of motion, aerobic exercises to improve your endurance and decrease fatigue, and strengthening exercises to improve your muscle endurance and power.
At Leading Edge we provide supervised, structured exercise classes on land and in a pool (hydrotherapy) designed to improve the strength and mobility in people affected by hip arthritis.
The key is to have a regular daily exercise program. The goal is to keep moving.Treat Your Muscles With A Massage!
A quality remedial massage may be just the relief your hip muscles need. Treat yourself to a good rub down with someone you trust. The benefits vary from person to person but may include decreased pain and muscle stiffness associated with your arthritis, increased circulation, and an improvement in your sleep and immune functions. Mentally, massage can also decrease stress and depression. Besides all it that, massage just feels good!
To help resolve injury as fast as possible
- Avoid or modify activities and positions, which cause your pain. Recovery is easier if you stop irritating the hip.
- Rest a pillow between your legs when sleeping on your side for prolonged periods