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Understanding Osteoarthritis of the Hips

Over 32.5 million people in the United States live with osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease. The hip joints are one of the most common joints to develop osteoarthritis.

Because osteoarthritis is so common, it’s important to know the causes, the signs, and the treatment options. When you are informed, you can be prepared to manage the problem if it develops in your own hips or in someone you know.

How Does Osteoarthritis in the Hips Develop?

Joints are spots in the body where two bones meet to allow movement. Your joints are cushioned by cartilage, allowing your bones to move freely without friction. With frequent use, cartilage begins to break down, and the bones no longer have a cushion.

The hip is a ball-and-socket joint that allows movement, provides stability, and bears your body weight. Because the hips bear the weight of your body, they are in use far more often than many other joints, causing faster wear and tear. This is what makes them such a common location for osteoarthritis to appear.

Although osteoarthritis of the hips can occur in anyone as they age, the risk increases if you have a history of physical trauma or injury near the hip joints. The risk also increases as weight increases, so maintaining a healthy weight can help prevent unnecessary stress on your hips.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Osteoarthritis?

The most common symptom of osteoarthritis is pain. The pain may feel dull, aching, hot, shooting, or throbbing. You may also feel a grinding sensation. Some may feel additional stiffness and decreased range of motion in their joints. Stiffness and pain may increase with activity. While your joints may feel tender, swelling is usually minimal for osteoarthritis. Pain and stiffness from osteoarthritis typically develop slowly over time. If you’ve felt a sudden increase of pain, you may be dealing with a different hip issue.

If your pain and symptoms are consistent, you should talk to your doctor to determine if the cause is osteoarthritis. There are other potential causes of pain, so it’s important to discuss your experience with a doctor to get the right treatment. Pain in the hip could be caused by an injury, tendonitis, muscle strains, and rheumatoid arthritis, among other causes. Some of these causes can be difficult to distinguish on your own and may require tests at a medical facility.

What Treatment Is Available for Osteoarthritis of the Hip?

Osteoarthritis can be a serious disease if left untreated because there is no way to reverse the damage done to the hip joint. However, if the issue is discovered early on, there are many ways to slow or stop the progression of the disease. There are also several options for treating the symptoms of osteoarthritis to manage pain, and improving your range of motion allows you to continue your daily responsibilities and routine.

Here are a few treatment strategies that can improve your osteoarthritis symptoms and keep you living a healthy life:

Lifestyle Changes

Once you’ve been diagnosed with osteoarthritis, the best strategy for preventing the progression of the disease is to make lifestyle changes that reduce stress on your joints. If you are over a healthy weight, consider discussing strategies for reducing your weight with your doctor. It’s important to create a plan for healthy weight loss because you don’t want to accidentally cut out essential nutrients from your diet or add exercises that could put extra stress on your hips.

If you participate in high-impact sports like running, aerobics, basketball, or any other activity that involves frequent jumping, it’s best to replace these activities with low-impact exercises like swimming, cycling, walking, or elliptical training.

While you may be tempted to minimize physical activity entirely when you begin to notice the stiffness and pain caused by osteoarthritis, remaining active through low-impact activities is important.

Walking is an especially beneficial exercise because it improves circulation and keeps joint-supporting muscles strong. It also slows the loss of bone mass. As people age, loss of bone mass is common, but if you lose too much bone mass, your risk of fractures can be dangerously high.


A doctor can prescribe medications that reduce pain and inflammation in your hips. These medications can be applied topically or administered orally. Some medications that can help with osteoarthritis are over-the-counter and do not require a prescription like ibuprofen and aspirin, but it’s always best to consult with a doctor to determine the best strategy for using any type of medication most effectively.

Physical and Occupational Therapy

During physical therapy, you will learn exercises that will strengthen your hips and improve flexibility. These exercises can slow or stop the progression of osteoarthritis. An occupational therapist can help you find ways to continue performing your daily responsibilities while minimizing the impact on your hips. If your job requires a large amount of time on your feet, they can help you find the best ways to support your hips during that time.

Supportive Devices

If you experience difficulty when walking due to osteoarthritis of the hips, a supportive device like a walker or cane can make your life easier and allow you to remain mobile and active. Shoe inserts can also take stress off your hips by providing greater support when you’re walking and standing. Both of these assistive devices can help stop the progression of osteoarthritis.


Many osteoarthritis patients experience significant pain relief after receiving injections in their hip. Corticosteroids are one of the most common types of injection. This type of injection is an anti-inflammatory drug that causes fast relief. Unlike oral medications, anti-inflammatory injections affect only the intended area, which minimizes negative side effects.

Hip Replacement Surgery

If osteoarthritis has progressed enough that your symptoms are not manageable with non-surgical treatment, surgery to replace the hip joint can provide relief. Hip replacement surgery is largely effective, with 95% of patients experiencing pain relief following the procedure. The surgery also has long-lasting results, with 90-95% of patients experiencing little to no problems with their hips ten years after surgery, and 80-85% of patients experiencing little to no pain after 20 years.

Speak with an Osteoarthritis Expert

If you are experiencing hip pain or stiffness, the sooner you find the source of the issue, the better. Speak with an osteoarthritis expert to find out if this disease could be causing your hip problems. An osteoarthritis expert can help you find the best treatment options to help you manage your symptoms and maintain the highest possible quality of life.