Hip osteoarthritis is caused by the breakdown of the cartilage and bone around the hip joint. It can cause pain and stiffness in and around the joints, but symptoms can vary between people.

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis. It is characterized by inflammation and the gradual breakdown of cartilage.

The hip joint is a commonly affected joint in people with OA. Arthritis of the hip can lead to pain when walking as well as difficulty sleeping.

This article explains the symptoms of OA in the hips. It also covers the anatomy of the hips, causes and risk factors of OA, and available treatment options.

A person with symptoms of hip osteoarthritis performing ballet.Share on Pinterest
Vladimir Tsarkov/Stocksy

The symptoms of hip OA vary from person to person. Factors such as age, weight, activity level, and genetics contribute to the severity of symptoms.

The following are some symptoms of hip OA:

  • pain in the groin, which is the most common symptom
  • pain or stiffness in the hip joint
  • pain or stiffness in the lower back
  • pain that increases with rainy weather
  • difficulty walking or difficulty climbing stairs
  • limping or favoring one leg over another
  • weakness in one leg
  • morning pain when getting out of bed

The pain may be worse at the end of the day.

With hip OA, people may sometimes feel the pain in the inner thigh, buttocks, or even the referred pain in the knees.

In some cases, the hip can lock or stick for a few moments with movement. This is called crepitus.

OA of the hip may make performing daily tasks, such as dressing and putting on shoes, more difficult. The symptoms are often worse when the person first stands up from sitting or lying down.

The pain associated with hip OA develops slowly and generally worsens over time. This can take months or years.

However, it is possible for the pain to develop suddenly.

Over time, the pain may become more frequent and occur during rest, such as during the night.

Nonsurgical treatment options include:

  • cortisone injections
  • medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • physical therapy
  • braces
  • assistive walking devices, such as a walking stick
  • maintaining a moderate body weight

Regular physical activity is also important. It can help strengthen the muscles around the hip, which can help reduce symptoms.

A physiotherapist can provide advice and tips on how to exercise based a person’s individual needs. They may recommend:

  • hydrotherapy, which involves exercising in water to take the strain off the hips
  • swimming
  • cycling
  • strengthening exercises a few times per week
  • hot and cold therapy
  • range of movement exercises
  • aerobic exercise for a few hours each week

If nonsurgical methods have not worked, a healthcare professional may recommend a surgical procedure called a total hip replacement.

This surgery replaces the damaged joint with an artificial one. The new joint is made of metal and plastic. It replicates the movement of a natural hip joint.

This type of surgery is not without risks, but it can relieve pain and improve mobility for many people with severe arthritis in their hips.

The hip joint is one of the body’s largest weight-bearing joints. It is a ball-and-socket joint that is formed from the femur, or thighbone, and acetabulum, or pelvic bone. The head of the femur fits into a socket of the acetabulum called the femoral head.

Muscles, ligaments, and tendons surround the hip.

A muscle called the iliopsoas attaches to the front of the hip and runs down to attach to the inside of the thighbone.

The iliopsoas works with other muscles in rotating the leg outward from the body or rotating the leg inward toward the body.

Other muscles that support the hip include:

  • adductor muscles
  • glutes
  • hamstrings
  • quadriceps

Cartilage is a smooth, slippery surface that covers the joints. It helps the bones of the joints move against each other without friction.

OA of the hip develops when the cartilage in the hip joint thins and the surface becomes rough. This can result in pain and swelling.

Although the exact cause is unknown, the following factors can increase a person’s risk of developing OA:

  • age
  • family history
  • injury to the hip
  • overweight and obesity
  • hip dysplasia
  • previous surgery to the hip joint
  • overuse from repetitive movements

OA usually develops in people aged 45 and over but can occur earlier. According to the National Institute on Aging, females are more likely to have OA than males, particularly after age 50.

A person who has a family history of hip OA may have a higher chance of developing the condition. This is because they may have a genetic predisposition to the disease.

To diagnose OA of the hip, a doctor may do a physical examination. They may ask about a person’s medical history and whether there is a family history of OA.

A doctor may also order tests, such as:

  • X-ray: X-rays can show any bone density changes or joint cartilage damage.
  • MRI: An MRI scan provides detailed images of the inside of the body.
  • Blood tests: Blood tests may detect certain proteins that are associated with OA.

It may not be possible to fully prevent OA of the hip. However, people may be able to slow its progression by:

  • maintaining a moderate weight
  • managing blood sugar levels
  • getting regular physical activity
  • avoiding smoking
  • managing stress in healthy, sustainable ways

The pain from hip OA can vary based on the severity of the condition. It is typically a dull, aching pain that worsens with activity.

If a person has any of the symptoms of hip OA, it is important they contact a doctor as soon as possible. Treatments can help reduce and manage a person’s symptoms.

OA is a progressive, degenerative condition. This means that without treatment, it will typically progress and worsen over time.

According to the patient advocacy group Versus Arthritis, for most people OA does not worsen steadily over time. Instead, it can reach a peak after the onset of symptoms and either remain the same or improve.

For others, they may experience flares of joint pain between phases of little to no pain.

There are also a number of treatment options and lifestyle strategies that can help improve a person’s quality of life and may help slow the progression of the condition.

The symptoms of hip OA can vary between each person. However, the most common symptom is pain, which develops slowly and progresses over time.

The pain is typically worse after periods of inactivity, such as in the morning after sleeping. However, as the condition progresses, pain can occur when a person is resting. People may also experience pain that radiates from the groin or thigh to the buttocks or knees.

Some people find that the hip locks or sticks for a few moments after moving.

There are treatment options available to help manage the symptoms of OA and slow its progression.