Osteoarthritis of the hip

This information may be useful for those who have been diagnosed with osteoarthritis of the hip.  People who are experiencing new or ongoing symptoms should contact their healthcare professional.  

Read about advice on dealing with a hip problem

What is Osteoarthritis?  

Osteoarthritis is a common condition which can affect any joint in the body. 

When a joint develops osteoarthritis, part of the cartilage thins and the surface becomes rougher (sometimes called wear and tear).  This means the joint doesn’t move as smoothly as it should.    

Read more about osteoarthritis

What causes osteoarthritis of the hip?  

The exact cause of osteoarthritis is unknown, however it’s likely that a combination of factors may contribute.

The likelihood of developing osteoarthritis in the hip can be increased by  

  • normal age related changes
  • a previous injury to the area  
  • repetitive activities and physical jobs
  • inheriting certain genetics from your parents
  • being overweight 

What are the symptoms of osteoarthritis of the hip?  

These can vary from person to person.

People may experience some or all of these symptoms including:

  • pain in or around the hip joint, groin area, buttock or front thigh that can be worse when moving or doing activities. 
  • stiffness in the hip, often in the morning or after resting.
  • locking, sticking or grinding of the hip
  • weakness in the buttock muscles.  
  • difficulty in daily activities such as walking, going up/down stairs, getting up from a chair or out of a car.

How is osteoarthritis of the hip diagnosed

In order for osteoarthritis of the hip to be diagnosed you will need an assessment from a healthcare professional.

They’ll initially ask you questions about your hip issue and then carry out a physical examination. This will include checking your range of movement and strength.

An x-ray of the hip is sometimes used to help diagnosis. You may sometimes need to have a further examination to rule out other possible health conditions.

How is osteoarthritis of the hip treated?

While there is no cure for osteoarthritis, the condition can be successfully self-managed in a number of cases. 

Osteoarthritis of the hip can range in severity; some people can have significant changes shown on an x-ray with mild symptoms and others can have severe symptoms with little physical change.

For both cases, and those in between, treatment would begin with the same approach. Keeping the joint mobile is the best way to manage your symptoms.

You can manage your symptoms by:

  • pacing your activities throughout the day. 
  • adapt activities which increase your pain or you find difficult.  
  • avoid low seating if possible.
  • wearing supportive footwear with cushioned soles and avoiding high heels.  
  • avoiding sitting in one position for long periods. 

Strengthening muscles around your hip will help manage your symptoms. 

Read more about exercises  for osteoarthritis of the hip

Seating

Low seating often tends to aggravate the hip. Many people find it difficult to get on and off a sofa or toilet or in and out of bed or a car.

It may be useful to increase the height of your seating where possible using cushions or specific products to raise all types of seating.

Versus Arthritis have more information on living with arthritis.

Walking aids/use of handrails

When climbing stairs consider using a handrail until your muscles become stronger. 

If going upstairs lead with the unaffected leg.  If going downstairs lead with the affected leg. 

A walking stick may be beneficial, if using ensure it’s used on the opposite side from your affected leg.  

If you feel a walking aid would be beneficial you should contact your healthcare professional for advice.

Pain treatments

Pain medication can help you move more comfortably, which can help your recovery

More about taking painkillers

Surgery 

In some cases, surgery may be required if all other treatment options have been tried.

If you’re waiting on surgery it’s still important to maintain movement in your hip using the management advice above as this will help your recovery.

Read more about what you can do while awaiting hip surgery

Work  

Osteoarthritis can sometimes mean you need to take some time off work to help recovery. How long you’re off will depend on the nature of your condition and your role at work.

You do not need to be symptom free before you consider returning to work. Continuing to go to work, or returning to work as soon as is possible for you, will help your recovery. Gradually getting back to your normal daily activities can help to build up your strength and stamina levels.

Help and support  

Following this advice, you should see gradual improvements over time. 

If your symptoms haven’t improved within 6 weeks, or it’s got worse, after following this advice, it’s a good idea to talk to a healthcare professional about your symptoms. 

Find out how to access MSK services in your area

When dealing with any health condition it’s important to also look after your mental wellbeing as this can impact your recovery.


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Source: MSK Expert Panel - Opens in new browser window

Last updated:
16 June 2023