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Hip Arthritis Description

Hip Osteoarthritis


Hip Arthritis means inflammation of the hip joint, this most commonly occurs as we get older and our joints start to wear out (similar to the tyres on a car).  Normal cartilage is very smooth, slippery and allows the bones to glide very smoothly across each other.  Over time this cartilage degenerates and wears out, this causes bone to rub on bone which is generates inflammation and pain.  Over time bone spurs and cysts form, and the joint becomes stiff.


Most hip arthritis is caused by an underlying problem in the hip such as:

  • Hip dysplasia
  • Femoroacetabular Impingement (FAI)
  • Trauma (eg previous fractures)
  • Inflammatory conditions (eg Rheumatoid Arthritis, Ankylosing Spondylitis)
  • Infections
  • Childhood hip disorders which have progressed to adulthood (eg Perthes Disease)
  • “Wear and Tear” without an underlying problem has been suggested by some to cause <15% of hip arthritis

Cartilage has a very limited ability to heal, so once it shows signs of wear and tear it is unlikely to heal by itself.  Over time it will progress as the joint continues to be used.  However, early treatment can improve your symptoms and manage your arthritis to keep you on your feet.

(Left) In this x-ray of a normal hip, the space between the ball and socket indicates healthy cartilage. (Right) This x-ray of an arthritic hip shows severe loss of joint space and bone spurs


Symptoms of hip arthritis are typically pain and stiffness.  Normally the pain is felt within the groin, and is a deep ache, which grips deep within the hip.  It can be aggravated by walking and activity.  Over time it will gradually worsen, and there may be periods where the pain may acutely flare up.  It will progress to causing walking difficulty, and often other people (spouse/relative/friends) may notice a limp.  The hip will slowly stiffen up, and in severe cases patients’ may complain of a ‘grating’ or ‘clunking’ noise/feeling with movement as bone rubs on bone.

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