Hip Joint Arthritis

Hip Joint Arthritis

The hip joint is the joint between the femur (thigh bone) and acetabulum of the pelvis and its primary function is to support the weight of the body in both static (e.g. standing) and dynamic (e.g. walking or running) postures.  It is a ball and socket joint.

The surfaces of the hip joint are covered in a lubricated low friction cartilage and the joint is made more stable by ligaments, tendons and muscles.


What is arthritis?

Arthritis is the wearing of the joint, which includes thinning and damage to the cartilage. As the protective cartilage is worn away, bare bone is exposed within the joint. Bony spurs and cysts also form. There are a number of different types of hip joint arthritis; the most common is osteoarthritis which is sometimes called ’wear-and-tear’ arthritis or degenerative joint disease.

What are the symptoms of hip arthritis?

People with hip arthritis typically experience groin and buttock pain which gradually worsens over time. Pain is also often felt in the thigh and sometimes the knee; this is known as ‘referred pain’. Intermittent episodes of more severe discomfort lasting days or weeks are common. Hips that have arthritis gradually become stiff, which can cause difficulty with daily activities such as putting on shoes, getting in and out of cars or chairs and walking up and down stairs. Painful catching and night pain are other common symptoms.


Can hip arthritis be treated without surgery?

Yes. Many patients with hip joint arthritis benefit from non-surgical treatment. Non-surgical treatments include lifestyle changes such as weight loss, activity modification, medications, and physiotherapy.  These measures may reduce pain and improve function, delaying or removing the need for surgery. For this reason, it is strongly recommended that patients with hip arthritis trial non-surgical treatments before undertaking an operation. It should be noted however that most types of arthritis are permanent and progressive. If your symptoms are persistent despite adequate non-surgical treatment, then an operation may be a better alternative. See ‘Non-Surgical Treatments’ for further information.


What operations are offered to treat hip arthritis?

Artificial joint replacements are a reliable and safe way of treating arthritis. For patients who require artificial joint replacement, the alternatives include Total Hip Replacement (THR) or Hip Resurfacing. Some patients with less extensive joint damage may benefit from hip arthroscopy (key-hole surgery) or other joint preserving surgical procedures. Knowing which  procedure is most appropriate for an individual patient requires clinical assessment.