Osteoarthritis (OA) commonly affects the hip joint. Pain and stiffness are the most common symptoms, although a ‘creaking’ sound (crepitus) can be heard later on for some people. Pain can be felt in the groin, the thigh or buttock.
Occasionally, hip joint OA may even present exclusively with pain in the knee and not the hip! As OA involves degeneration of the joint cartilage, pain is primarily provoked by loading the joint, for example, bearing weight during running or walking.
Stiffness tends to be worst in the morning time or after a prolonged period sitting e.g. at a desk job or after a long car journey.
OA is a condition that needs to be managed and conservative treatment is enough for many people to help them do so. The focus of treatment is on optimising your quality of life and conserving the joint for as long as possible. Conservative (non-surgical) treatment includes the following:
- Exercise – research supports exercise as the most important element of treatment. Exercise prescription will be bespoke, depending on your physical assessment but the most common elements for people with hip OA include mobility exercises (stretches or Yoga) and strengthening exercises for anti-gravity muscles that protect the joint (gluteal and core muscles).
- Analysing your current lifestyle and suggesting modifications that lead to less load on the joint. Examples include changing sporting activity from long-distance running to swimming or, in the case of a less active individual for whom walking has become painful, introducing a walking stick to reduce pain and foster a better walking pattern.
- Manual Therapy – may be useful to assist with pain relief or improving mobility. It is possible to regain some mobility, particularly in the early stages of OA.
- Medication – pharmacological management can improve quality of life for people with hip OA and should be discussed, in detail, with your GP.
After a trial of conservative treatment, if your hip OA symptoms are not responsive, it may become appropriate to discuss the timing of referral to an orthopaedic surgeon, for consideration of hip surgery.