Hip Arthritis Overview
Arthritis is inflammation of the joint, which leads to pain. The forms of arthritis have their own pattern of symptoms and affect people in different ways. There are two major types of arthritis.
- Sometimes called wear-and-tear arthritis, or degenerative joint disease, osteoarthritis is a common form of hip arthritis.
- The onset of osteoarthritis is usually after age 50.
- Contributing factors include obesity, genetics and previous trauma
- Symptoms include pain, walking with a limp and limitation of mobility
Rheumatoid arthritis occurs in people of all ages. Rheumatoid arthritis is characterized by:
- Chronic inflammation of the joint lining—these are not symptoms. These are pathologic findings.
- Secondary destruction of cartilage
- Stiffness, joint swelling, weakness of ligaments, pain, and a decrease of movement in the joint
Mechanical wear and tear over a lifetime can break down the cartilage that cushions the ends of the bones that comprise the hip joint. This causes the bones to rub together, causing pain and stiffness.
Wear and tear on a person's hip joints over time seems to be an obvious explanation for the increase of degenerative arthritis with age, but the answer is not that simple. A number of factors interact to cause hip arthritis including a genetic predisposition to abnormal cartilage metabolism, major or minor repetitive injures and certain occupations. While being overweight does not necessarily cause arthritis, it certainly contributes to the symptoms of hip arthritis.
Symptoms of hip arthritis include:
- Pain with activities
- Limited range of motion
- Stiffness of the hip
- Walking with a limp
In cases of rheumatoid arthritis—a chronic inflammatory disease of the hip joint caused when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the thin membrane that lines the joints—symptoms may also include:
- Redness of the affected hip joint
- Swelling and warmth of hip joint
The causes of most types of arthritis are unknown, but genetic factors, injuries and your current lifestyle contribute. Being overweight is a risk factor.
Hip Arthritis Prevention
If you alter your lifestyle, it can help you reduce your risk of developing hip arthritis. Your Wellstar physicians will discuss a prevention plan with you.
- Maintaining a healthy weight may slow the progression of hip osteoarthritis
- An exercise program may help reduce pain and improve range of movement
- Regular, moderate exercise offers many benefits to people with hip arthritis. In addition to reducing hip pain and stiffness, exercise builds strong muscle around the joints.
- Stretching is a simple way to keep joints and muscles flexible.
- Exercising in the water can build strength and increase range of motion, while the water’s buoyancy reduces wear and tear on sore joints.
Reduce Your Risk of Hip Arthritis
- Avoid excess body fat by balancing caloric intake with ample exercise.
- Take steps to prevent injuries:
- Stretch and warm up before exercise. Cool down afterward.
- Don't overdo it.
- Wear properly fitting shoes.
- Avoid running on asphalt, concrete and other hard surfaces whenever possible.
Tests and Screenings
The procedures or screenings your Wellstar physician recommends may include:
- CT scan (computerized tomography)
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
Hip Arthritis Diagnosis
Hip arthritis pain varies greatly from person to person. The pain of hip arthritis may be the result of inflammation of the synovial membrane (tissue that lines the joints), tendons, or ligaments; muscle strain; and fatigue.
The first step in diagnosing hip pain is establishing a medical history. Your Wellstar physician will ask a series of questions that might include:
- Are your symptoms worse after activity or rest?
- Are there certain activities that make them worse—or better?
- How long have you been experiencing hip symptoms?
- Did you recall having an illness or accident around the time your symptoms began?
- Are you experiencing symptoms in any joints besides the hip(s)?
Your Wellstar physician will do a physical examination to determine causes of pain. The patient might undergo x-rays or other imaging procedures such as a CT scan (computerized tomography) or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) to see how much joint damage has been done.
The doctor may also order lab tests if your symptoms and physical examination suggest rheumatoid arthritis.
- Physical exam
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
Hip Arthritis Treatment
Treatment of arthritis will depend on the type of arthritis, its severity, and your overall health. A number of different Wellstar specialists might be involved in your arthritis care. The goal is to treat all aspects of arthritis pain, increase joint mobility and strength and help you learn to manage pain.
Conservative treatment is always attempted first. Weight loss may go a long way to reducing stress on the joint and easing pain. Use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (such as Alleve®), physiotherapy, activity modification, ambulatory assistive devices, braces and corticosteroid injections are common conservative treatment options.
In its early stages, arthritis of the hip is treated with non-surgical measures:
- Lifestyle modifications can include losing weight, switching from running or jumping exercises to swimming or cycling, and minimizing activities that aggravate the condition, such as climbing stairs. Simple weight loss can reduce stress on weight-bearing joints and result in reduced pain and increased function.
- Exercises can help increase range of motion and flexibility as well as help strengthen the muscles in the leg. Physical therapy and exercise are often effective in reducing pain and improving function. Your physician or a physical therapist can help develop an individualized exercise program that meets your needs and lifestyle.
- Supportive devices, such as canes, can be helpful.
- Other measures may include applications of heat or ice, water exercises, liniments or elastic bandages. Warming tissues eases arthritis pain by increasing blood flow to affected areas. Cold packs or ice packs reduce swelling and slow the transmission of pain signals through nerves.
More than more than 168,000 hip replacements are performed nationally each year, a procedure that becomes necessary when the cartilage wears away completely and the bones rub directly against each other.
The resulting pain can diminish quality of life and make the smallest of tasks difficult.
At the Wellstar Center for Joint Replacement, we excel in the treatment of hip and knee joints affected by arthritis. Hip replacement surgery is considered when treatments have failed to provide adequate pain relief. Hip replacement surgery can be performed traditionally or by using a minimally invasive technique.
Your physicians, nurses, therapists, and other healthcare professionals at the Wellstar Center for Joint Replacement take time to involve you and your family in care planning and pre-operative education classes. A program coordinator monitors care from diagnosis to discharge.
Ongoing Care for Hip Arthritis
The pain and stiffness of hip arthritis can be eased through exercise and physical therapy. Regular exercise strengthens joint-supporting muscles and improves flexibility.
A physical therapist can suggest appropriate exercises to improve range of motion.
Aquatic therapy is an option if you have medication conditions that might limit traditional exercise.