What is hip arthritis? Hip arthritis is a progressive degenerative condition that causes pain and stiffness in the hip joint, where the femur—or thigh bone—fits into the pelvic bone. There are two types of arthritis of the hip: osteoarthritis and inflammatory arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus among others. The pain these conditions cause can make it difficult for people with an arthritic hip to move around and manage their daily activities. While the factors that trigger inflammatory arthritis aren’t completely understood, there are several known risk factors for hip osteoarthritis. Older people and obese people are both more at risk for developing hip arthritis. If osteoarthritis runs in your family, you’re also at a higher risk for the disease. Hip arthritis symptoms include stiffness and pain in the groin or thigh area. Both types of hip arthritis tend to cause more stiffness and pain in the morning or after resting for a while. Hip osteoarthritis usually develops gradually with time and may lessen range of motion. Doctors often recommend treating both types of hip arthritis with physical therapy and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicine. Using a cane or walker can improve mobility, and simply avoiding situations that aggravate the problem, such as climbing stairs, is also a good idea. Your doctor may suggest injecting medicine into the joint to reduce inflammation, although the effects are temporary. Hip surgery to repair or replace the joint is an option if other treatments don’t help relieve your symptoms. As with inflammatory arthritis, treatment regimens typically change as the disease progresses. Left untreated, inflammatory arthritis can cause damage to the joint, so it’s important to visit your doctor if you think you might have the disease. What are the symptoms of hip arthritis? Both inflammatory arthritis and osteoarthritis of the hip cause similar pain and stiffness symptoms. Inflammatory hip arthritis can also cause other symptoms throughout the body, such as fever, fatigue, and decreased appetite. Osteoarthritis typically starts slow and gets worse with time. Common symptoms of hip arthritis The most common symptoms of hip arthritis include: Pain in the groin or thigh that extends to the buttocks or down the leg to the knee Pain that’s worse after a period of inactivity, such as first thing in the morning or after sitting for a while Pain that gets better with light or moderate activity but worsens with vigorous activity Pain that makes walking and bending difficult or causes a limp Locking up of the hip joint that sometimes comes with a grinding noise or grating sensation If you notice these symptoms and they don’t go away, visit your doctor to talk about the possibility of hip arthritis. Particularly with inflammatory arthritis, it’s important to get a diagnosis and begin treatment as soon as possible. Treatment can help prevent damage, even destruction, of the joint, which can cause permanent disability. What causes hip arthritis? Osteoarthritis of the hip occurs when the cartilage in the hip joint begins to wear out. The cartilage loses its ability to cushion the bones as they move. When the cartilage wears out completely, the bones in the joint rub together, causing pain and stiffness. Rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory types of arthritis of the hip happen when the immune system attacks the membrane that lines the hip joint. This is an autoimmune reaction. It’s not entirely known why the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy body parts. Research suggests genetics and certain environmental factors play a role. Understanding the causes and triggers of inflammatory arthritis is an intense area of research. What are the risk factors for hip arthritis? Osteoarthritis has number of common risk factors, which include: Older age Female gender Obesity, which increases pressure and wear on weight-bearing joints Injury to the hip Bone or cartilage deformity before birth Family history of osteoarthritis Some risk factors for inflammatory arthritis overlap with those for osteoarthritis, including female gender and family history of inflammatory arthritis. Certain genes can increase the risk of rheumatoid arthritis, but the exact cause is not known. An environmental agent may trigger the actual disease process. Notably, heavy smoking is a well-studied risk factor for rheumatoid arthritis. Keep in mind that many people who do not have known risk factors go on to develop arthritis, and many people with risk factors do not develop arthritis. There is no easy ‘cause and effect’ with arthritis. A risk factor is simply something that researchers have identified that increases the likelihood of developing a condition compared to the general population studied. Reducing your risk of hip arthritis You can’t change your gender, genetics or your age, but you can reduce your risk of hip osteoarthritis by maintaining a healthy weight and getting enough physical activity. You may be able to prevent injury to your hip by using proper protective gear while playing sports. If you have a bone deformity in your hip or if you have a family history of arthritis, discuss these risk factors with your doctor to see what you can do to help prevent hip arthritis. Particularly for inflammatory forms of arthritis, not smoking or quitting if you do smoke is another way to decrease your risk. How is hip arthritis treated? Surgery is a treatment option for hip arthritis, but most doctors suggest nonsurgical treatment as a starting point. Because osteoarthritis is caused by general wear and tear on the hip joint, often simple lifestyle changes—such as losing weight or changing exercise plans to a lower-impact activity—can make a big difference in symptoms. Physical therapy and regular moderate exercise can strengthen the muscles in your hip and can also increase your flexibility, both of which will improve your ability to get around with less stiffness and pain. If pain is still a problem, you can use over-the-counter pain relievers and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Cortisone injections can also help minimize pain. Your doctor can write a prescription for stronger pain medication if you need it. For autoimmune forms of arthritis, doctors typically prescribe medicines that modify the immune system and make it less active, reducing inflammation and protecting joints. NSAIDs may also a part of treatment. If nonsurgical treatments aren’t reducing your symptoms, you might need surgery. Total hip replacement, which uses metal, plastic or ceramic joint implants, is an option for either osteoarthritis or inflammatory hip arthritis. Hip resurfacing may also be a treatment option. With hip resurfacing, the surgeon removes damaged bone and cartilage and replaces the surfaces with metal. This preserves more of the thigh bone. Your doctor may recommend a synovectomy—removing the joint lining (synovium)—to treat early stage inflammatory arthritis. What are the potential complications of hip arthritis? Hip osteoarthritis gets worse as time goes on. It can cause bone spurs as the cartilage in the hip joint wears out and bones begin rubbing against each other. People with either osteoarthritis or inflammatory hip arthritis may eventually find it difficult to perform their daily routines. For signs and symptoms of hip arthritis, see an arthritis specialist—a rheumatologist—for an expert diagnosis and treatment recommendations. It’s easier to manage hip arthritis and adhere to a treatment plan when you have a clear understanding of how the condition progresses and what you can do to prevent complications.