Hip arthritis commonly describes the most common for of hip arthritis, which is known medically as hip osteoarthritis.
Hip osteoarthritis is a joint disease that mostly affects your hip joint cartilage. Articular cartilage is the hard slippery surface that covers the sections of bones that move against each other in your hip joint.
Healthy articular cartilage allows your hip joint bones to smoothly and painlessly glide over each other and also helps to absorb any shock forces not dispersed by your hip muscles.
What Causes Hip Arthritis?
In hip osteoarthritis, your top layer of articular cartilage breaks down and wears away. Eventually, your cortical bone that lies under the cartilage rubs together to cause pain, swelling, grating and loss of hip joint motion.
Muscle weakness and the resultant hip joint instability associated is thought to contribute towards the deterioration of your hip joint cartilage. Weaker hip muscles also provide less shock absorption capabilities than their strong counterparts, which increases your hip joint compression forces. Hip osteoarthritis usually happens gradually over time.
Some risk factors that might increase your likelihood of deterioration include:
- Being overweight.
- Previous joint injury.
- Muscle weakness.
- Stresses on the joints from certain jobs and playing sports.
- Poor biomechanics.
- Malformed joints or a genetic defect in your joint cartilage.
Hip osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis affecting your hip. Unlike some other forms of arthritis, osteoarthritis affects only joints and not internal organs. It is becoming more common with an ageing population. However, it can also occur in younger people, especially where there is a history of hip injury or heavy work.
Some research suggests that early intervention can delay the onset of the hip arthritis and may reduce the number of cases of hip osteoarthritis. There is not currently a cure for hip osteoarthritis.
What are the Symptoms of Hip Arthritis?
Hip arthritis results in hip pain, joint weakness, joint instability, and restrictions of movement that interfere with your most basic daily tasks such as walking, climbing stairs or driving.
Your symptoms can develop suddenly or slowly and may include:
- Hip joint pain or tenderness that comes and goes. Typically there will be sharper pains in the groin, and sometimes an ache in the front of the thigh. Many people present with hip arthritis thinking that it is a knee problem.
- Hip stiffness, particularly early morning stiffness.
- Hip joint movement is difficult, especially inward rotation, movement of the leg across the body and hip extension.
- Weak hip muscles, especially during sit to stand, squatting and stair climbing.
- Hip joint swelling or deformity can be hard to detect because of the location of the hip joint.
How is Hip Arthritis Diagnosed?
Your initial diagnosis of hip osteoarthritis is usually clinically formed by taking a detailed history of your symptoms and a physical examination looking at the range of movement of your hip joint and any associated pain.
If hip osteoarthritis is suspected, a hip X-ray will assess your hip joint wear and tear, and sometimes a blood test to check for other factors.