Arthritis Symptoms in the Hip

By Lori Newell

Arthritis is a chronic and painful condition that can affect many areas of the body. It can interfere with everyday activities and the ability to stay independent. The hips are a common area where arthritis can develop. Having arthritis in the hips can make walking difficult. There are different treatment options available to manage the symptoms.


Arthritis is a general term used to describe over 100 conditions. The symptoms of arthritis can mimic other conditions as well. The first step is to have your hip pain diagnosed properly. This is done with an x-ray or MRI and a complete exam by your physician. The most common type of hip arthritis is osteoarthritis. This form of arthritis occurs when the cartilage that protects the joint begins to wear away. As the cartilage diminishes, the ends of the bones in the joint begin to rub against each other, which creates pain. Genetics plays a role in whether or not you will develop arthritis. Being overweight is also a major risk factor.


Symptoms of hip arthritis include discomfort and/or stiffness in the hips, groin, thighs or buttock, which is more pronounced in the morning. The pain may become worse with movement and better with rest. If the condition is not treated, inflammation will occur and pain will increase. You may also notice that you are less able to rotate or flex your hip, and you may limp when you walk.

Lifestyle Changes

The first step in managing arthritis of the hip is making changes to your daily habits. If you are overweight, losing weight can often reduce symptoms. The less you weigh, the less pressure there is on the hip joint. Regular gentle stretching will help to relieve tight muscles that may be overworked due to the changes in the joint. Strength training exercises such as leg lifts and knee extensions will help to strengthen the muscles that surround the hip joint. Stronger muscles also take pressure off of painful joints. Getting adequate sleep and rest will also help to reduce painful symptoms. Heat and ice are also useful modalities. Working with a physical therapist can hep you to design the exercise program that is right for you and he can suggest when and how to use heat and ice properly.


If your hip pain is severe enough, you may need to take medication to manage your condition. The most common is NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) These medications work to reduce the inflammation in the joint, which in turn reduces pressure and pain. While these medications are highly effective in managing pain, they can also cause severe side effects. In 2005 some NSAID's were removed from the market due to the risk of cardiovascular disease in patients taking them. There are other NSAID's that are still available. In addition there are over-the-counter and prescription medications that can be used, depending on your symptoms. It is important to work with your doctor to determine the right medication and dose for your situation.

Surgical Options

If your hip pain is severe or arthritis has caused excessive damage to the hip joint, you may need a hip replacement. In a study published in "Journal of the American Geriatrics Society" in May 2008, researchers found that patients who underwent total hip replacement were twice as likely as those who did not to show improvements in physical functioning and increased ability to care for themselves. The study also discovered that there was no age limit in regards to benefiting from hip replacement. During hip replacement surgery the ends of both bones in the affected joint are removed and replaced with a metal ball. A patient needs to stay in the hospital for a few days or weeks to recover, and then there will be a period of physical therapy to help him become accustomed to the new joint. Many patients return to a pain free and active lifestyle after hip replacement surgery. However, it is important to continue to exercise and maintain weight to avoid future problems.

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