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When the cartilage covering the bony surfaces of the hip joint has worn away, the bones rub on each other causing the pain of arthritis.

This can be managed well in the early stages with medication and exercise therapy. Once the pain is impacting on quality of life and the non-operative measures aren't working, hip replacement surgery needs to be considered.

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Hip osteoarthritis is a progressive disorder which causes inflammation in the hip joint. It’s the most common cause of hip pain in older Australians.

The hip joint is made up of the head of the femur (ball) and the acetabulum (socket). These two bony surfaces are covered with articular cartilage that lets them move smoothly on each other. This wears away as we age, which can lead to the underlying bones rubbing on each other.

There is no single cause of hip arthritis, though certain factors can make you more likely to develop it. These include:

  • Age
  • Previous hip injury
  • Obesity
  • Developmental abnormalities that change the hip’s shape.

Pain and stiffness are the most common symptoms. It usually presents in the groin, and may radiate down to your knee or buttocks. This pain can worsen as the osteoarthritis progresses.

You may also feel stiffness in the hip joint and hear noises coming from the hip socket during movement. These can limit your range of motion and interfere with how you move your hips.

A thorough physical exam and medical history assesses possible causes of your symptoms. X-rays are often used to see the hip joint’s bony structures. If required, MRI or CT scans can show the hip’s bony and soft tissue structures in more detail.

There is no cure for hip osteoarthritis, but there are many non-surgical options to manage the pain and reduce its impact on your daily life. Maintaining a healthy weight is the first step and can reduce strain on the knee to alleviate symptoms.

Regular resistance-based exercise is crucial to maintain your strength and maximise function. Low-impact activities such as swimming, yoga, walking and cycling can all help you keep fit and help your psychological wellbeing, but functional resistance work is key.

Click here to learn more about our non-operative osteoarthritis functional recovery programs.

Over the counter pain medications such as paracetamol (Panadol osteo) and ibuprofen (Nurofen) can relieve symptoms. Although your doctor can prescribe stronger painkillers which, they are not recommended for osteoarthritis as they have multiple side effects and don’t work well in the long term.

Cortisone, PRP (platelet rich plasma), and synthetic joint fluid injections don’t work for everyone and only temporarily relieve pain. There is a limit to how often they can be given safely: we use them to settle your knee so you can manage the functional exercises that provide long-term relief.

If your hip pain is not relieved by these therapies and is significantly impacting your quality of life, you may be a candidate for surgery. Surgical treatments can include:

See all Hip Conditions

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