Hip Arthritis

what is hip arthritis?

Arthritis is a general term that describes a number of conditions that result from inflammation of a joint. There are several types of arthritis that affects the hip joint.

  • Osteoarthritis is the most common form of hip arthritis and results from the wearing away of cartilage between the top of the thigh bone (femoral head) and the hip socket (acetabulum) causing the two bones to rub against each other and create friction on movement.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes swelling of the membrane lining of the joint (synovial membrane). The synovial membrane normally functions to increase cushioning and allow smooth movement between the femoral head and the acetabulum. The diseased synovial membrane caused by rheumatoid arthritis damages the cartilage lining the joint, and produces excess fluid in the joint leading to pain and poor movement.
  • Post traumatic arthritis develops following injury or fracture to the hip joint and results in pain and stiffness of the joint.

what are the symptoms?

  • Hip pain – may be felt in hip, groin, buttock, thigh or knee
  • Hip stiffness
  • Decreased range of hip movement
  • Swelling/inflammation

what are the causes?

Osteoarthritis and post traumatic arthritis

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. As we age, the chances of developing arthritis increases, though the severity of the disease is different for everyone. People in early stages of life can also develop osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis breaks down the cartilage in joints and can occur in almost any joint in the body, though it occurs most often in the hips, knees and spine. Cartilage is the cushion that covers the ends of bones in normal joints and helps provide protection so those bones don’t rub together. it also serves as a shock absorber as wear and tear occurs in the joints after years of use. The cartilage can also be damaged by injuries or fractures to the joints resulting in post traumatic arthritis.

Risk factors for developing hip osteoarthritis include:

  • Being overweight
  • Increasing age
  • Previous hip fracture or injury
  • Family history of osteoarthritis
  • Repetitive stress on the joint through work or sport
  • Genetic defects in cartilage or improper formation of the hip joint at birth

Rheumatoid arthritis

As rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease, the exact cause of is not known however family history and environmental factors are thought to be risk factors to the disease developing.

how is hip arthritis diagnosed?

If you are experiencing the symptoms listed above, you should consult your doctor. Your doctor will take a detailed history of your pain and other symptoms, and your family medical history. A physical examination will also be undertaken to assess your range of hip movement, level of joint stiffness and gait (walking).

If your doctor suspects hip arthritis is the cause of your symptoms, you will be referred for a hip x-ray. A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan or computed tomography (CT) scan may also occasionally be required. If rheumatoid arthritis is suspected, your doctor may also do a blood test to look for autoimmune factors that will be present in the blood.

how is hip arthritis treated/managed?

There is no cure for arthritis, however there are treatment options to increase mobility and relieve pain.

Non Surgical:

Mild forms of osteoarthritis or osteoarthritis in its initial stages may be managed with a range of non-surgical options. These include:

  • Lifestyle modifications that include:
    • Weight loss
    • Reducing high-impact activities
    • Physiotherapy
    • Regular exercise as determined by your physiotherapist
  • Medication:
    • To manage pain
    • To reduce inflammation


Once your symptoms can no longer be managed with non-surgical treatment options and you are no longer able to undertake your usual daily activities, your doctor may recommend hip surgery. The type of surgery your doctor recommends will be determined in consultation with you based on your specific symptoms and risk factors.

  • Hip resurfacing involves removal of the damaged bone and cartilage of the femur and acetabulum and replaced with a smooth metal covering to decrease friction
  • Total hip replacement involves removing the entire femoral head (ball of the thigh bone that sits within the hip socket) and replacing it with a prosthetic femoral head that sits within a prosthetic hip socket.