Osteoarthritis, sometimes called “wear and tear” arthritis, is a common degenerative condition. Doctors can treat osteoarthritis with medication and surgery. People can also manage their symptoms with different exercises and stretches.
Although osteoarthritis can occur in any joint, it commonly affects the weight-bearing joints, such as the knees and hips.
Read on to find out more about osteoarthritis of the hip. We discuss what causes the condition, how doctors diagnose it, and the different ways to treat it.
Treatments for osteoarthritis focus on reducing pain and improving mobility. Effective ways to treat osteoarthritis include the following:
1. Pain medications
Pain management is essential for people living with hip osteoarthritis. People can treat mild to moderate pain with over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
People who have moderate to severe osteoarthritis may experience more intense pain. In such cases, prescription pain relief may be necessary.
2. Arthritis medications
Some people may require medications to help slow the progression of arthritis or reduce some of the symptoms. Examples of such drugs include:
Corticosteroids control inflammation by mimicking the effects of cortisol, a hormone that regulates the immune system.
People can take oral corticosteroid tablets. Doctors can also inject corticosteroids directly into the hip joint. However, corticosteroid injections offer only temporary pain relief. People will require additional injections going forward.
Hyaluronic acid injections
In the past, some people have used hyaluronic acid injections to treat osteoarthritis. However, current guidelines advise against using these injections for this purpose, as there is not enough evidence to confirm that they are safe and effective.
3. Physical therapy
Physical therapists are trained healthcare professionals who specialize in diagnosing and treating conditions that limit mobility. People with hip osteoarthritis may benefit from physical therapy sessions.
During the initial session, the therapist will assess the person’s physical condition and any specific mobility problems they have. They will then devise a set of tailored exercises to help improve mobility.
The therapist teaches people how to perform each exercise so that they can safely continue their treatment at home. They may also recommend additional treatment options, such as braces, walkers, or hot and cold therapy.
Some people experience severe hip pain or stiffness that significantly affects their quality of life. These people may benefit from surgery.
There are two main surgical options for hip osteoarthritis:
This procedure involves trimming or shaving away damaged bone on the femoral head. The femoral head is the upper end of the thigh bone, which sits inside the hip socket.
After removing the damaged bone, the surgeon covers the femoral head with metal. The surgeon also fits a metal cup inside the hip socket.
Total hip replacement
During this procedure, a surgeon replaces the entire hip joint, including the femoral head and the socket. In their place, the surgeon fits artificial components made of metal, plastic, or ceramic.
Each surgical option carries benefits and risks. A doctor will guide people through the available options before deciding on the best treatment to pursue.
5. Stem cell therapy
Stem cells are cells that have the potential to develop into a range of different cell types. Researchers are currently looking into whether stem cell therapies could help to replace and regenerate damaged tissues within the human body.
Mesenchymal stem cells are stem cells that can develop into bone and cartilage, among other types of tissue. According to a 2018 review, mesenchymal stem cells could help to repair damaged cartilage and reduce inflammation in knee osteoarthritis.
However, stem cell therapy is not yet ready for use in clinical settings. Advances in gene editing techniques may help overcome many of the limitations currently facing stem cell therapy.
The American College of Rheumatology and the Arthritis Foundation advise against this treatment due to the current lack of standardization and regulation.
6. Exercising and stretching
Exercises that may help manage symptoms of hip osteoarthritis include:
Stretching every day can also help to improve flexibility and relieve joint stiffness and pain. Consider the following stretches:
Sitting hip flexion
- Sit in a chair. Make sure to keep the back straight and both feet flat on the floor.
- Keeping the knees bent at a 90° angle, gently raise one knee toward the ceiling.
- Slowly bring the leg back down to its original position.
- Repeat on the opposite side.
- Begin the exercise in a seated position. Keep the back straight and both feet flat on the floor.
- Slowly lean forward, using the forward momentum to stand up again.
- Bend the knees and the hips to sit down.
- Continue alternating between sitting and standing.
- Place an exercise mat or a nonslip rug on the floor
- Get into a lunge position with one knee on the floor and the other one in front of the body. Keep the back foot relaxed, and the front foot flat on the floor.
- Gently lean forward to stretch the hip and hold this position for a few seconds. Remember to keep the back straight while leaning forward.
- Return to the starting position by leaning back until the shoulders are in line with the hips.
- Repeat the exercise on the other side.
- Start by standing upright with the feet shoulder width apart.
- Feel free to put a slight bend in the knees to make the stretch less intense.
- Hold this stretch for a few seconds and slowly return to the starting position.
People can also perform this stretch from a seated position:
- Sit upright in a chair, with the back straight, and a 90° bend in the knees.
- Slowly lean forward, bending at the hips.
- Hold this stretch for a few seconds, and slowly return to the starting position.
Cartilage is a rubber-like tissue that covers the ends of the bones in the joints. Here, it acts as a cushion that prevents the end of one bone from rubbing against the end of an adjoining one. It also provides lubrication that allows the joint to move easily and painlessly.
In osteoarthritis, the cartilage inside the joints wears away, causing two or more bones to rub together. This process results in joint inflammation, swelling, and pain.
The risk of osteoarthritis increases with age. As people grow older, the cartilage cushions between their joints slowly deteriorate. The symptoms of discomfort and pain tend to worsen as the cartilage continues to break down.
To diagnose hip osteoarthritis, a doctor will take a person’s medical history and carry out a physical examination of the joints. The doctor may also order the following diagnostic tests:
People who have hip osteoarthritis may experience the following symptoms in their joint:
- sharp pain or a dull ache
- reduced range of motion
While hip osteoarthritis can cause pain in the hip itself, the pain may sometimes radiate out to the following areas:
- the groin
- the inner thigh
- the buttocks
- the knees
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease with no cure, as yet. However, a combination of medical treatments and physical therapy can help to slow its progression and manage the symptoms.
Medical treatments for hip osteoarthritis focus on reducing pain and inflammation. Exercising and stretching can also help to improve joint mobility and reduce symptoms. Doctors usually reserve invasive treatments, such as surgery, for severe or end stage hip osteoarthritis.
Researchers around the world continue to develop new therapies that may, one day, reverse the effects of osteoarthritis.