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Osteoarthritis of the hip

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a chronic condition characterized by the degeneration of the cartilage in the joints due to aging and wear and tear, causing pain, stiffness and functional incapacity.

Cartilage is the firm, rubbery tissue that cushions your bones at the joints. It allows bones to glide over one another. When the cartilage breaks down and wears away, the bones rub together. This often causes the pain, swelling, and stiffness of OA.

Cartilage is found in the cervical and lumbar spine, the shoulder, the joints of the fingers, hip, knees and toes (especially the big toe). As the osteoarthritis worsens, bone spurs (osteophytes) or additional bone material around the joint can form. The muscles and ligaments around the joints can become weaker and stiffer.

The main cause of osteoarthritis is not known but there are certain factors such as obesity, certain types of jobs and activities, heredity, race, excessive physical exercise among others that increase the risk of developing it.

Osteoarthritis is the most common degenerative disorder of the hip, a ball-and-socket joint in the pelvis. A healthy hip moves easily thanks to cartilage, a firm, rubbery material that covers the ends of bones in normal joints. The primary function of cartilage is to reduce friction in the joints and serve as a "shock absorber" for the hip. Osteoarthritis wears away this cartilage, and over time, the cartilage deteriorates and becomes rough. When the cartilage is completely worn away, the bones rub together and cause friction. To compensate for the loss of cartilage, the damaged bones begin to grow and form painful spurs.


Pain is the most common symptom of hip osteoarthritis. It can cause lameness when weight is put upon the leg or one can feel stiffness in the hip, making it difficult to move. The symptoms tend to be worse in the morning or after a long period of inactivity. Sometimes though, there are no symptoms or pain, like for example, when the spine is affected and the illness is detected first by x-rays.

Nonetheless, pain is still the most fundamental sign of osteoarthritis and it tends to appear when the affected joint is forced. Generally, it worsens during the day, and as the disease advances, the pain appears even when you are resting and it may wake you up at night.

Another related symptom is joint stiffness. The growth of the ends of the joint-forming bones can enlarge and widen the joint. A non-exclusive characteristic is muscular atrophy due to pain and functional loss, which together with the pain, increases instability and insecurity.


If the pain does not interfere with everyday life, it is possible that the doctor will recommend some lifestyle changes to protect the joints and retard the progression of the disease. Some helpful measures are:

  • Not overstressing the painful joint at work or while doing activities
  • Keeping a healthy weight or losing weight. Even a small amount of weight loss can relieve some pressure and reduce the joint pain.
  • Strengthening the surrounding muscles, especially on those joints that bear weight (hip. Knee, ankle). Exercise can increase your endurance and strengthen the muscles around your joint, making your joint more stable. Substitute low-impact exercises like walking, bicycling, swimming for high-impact exercises.
  • Getting regular physical activity
  • Avoiding joint injuries
  • Adapting the jobs that require crouching, bending or weight lifting. Get physiotherapy. Some specific exercises can improve the range of movement of the hip joint and strengthen the muscles that support the joint. Canes or shoe inserts can also help reduce the stress on the joint.
  • Using heat or cold on the joint to relieve the pain.

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