Hip Osteoarthritis? What is it?

Hip osteoarthritis (OA) is a degenerative disease where the cushion or shock absorber is known as hyaline cartilage breaks down in your joints. This gradually affects the entire joint and surrounding muscles which causes pain and stiffness in the hip.

Relevant Anatomy

Hip Osteoarthritis

The hip joint is the largest ball and socket joint in our body. The ball-shaped section is the head of the femur and the cupped-shaped socket is the acetabulum of the pelvis. The labrum, which is made up of hyaline cartilage, lines the rim of the acetabulum. It provides extra support for the femur and acts as a shock absorber with load-bearing activities. With hip osteoarthritis, this cartilage breaks down, and the lining between the head of the femur and acetabulum is diminished. Without this support, the femur does not move as fluidly and this leads to pain and stiffness. Below is a schematic example of how this is represented.

Hip Osteoarthritis. What is it?

How long will it be like this?

Hip OA develops slowly and there are some risk factors that we cannot change, such as:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Previous trauma
  • Anatomical malalignment

However, there are many modifiable risk factors, such as:

  • Inactivity
  • Obesity
  • Poor diet
  • Muscle weakness

How might I know I have hip OA?

Do you experience any of the following symptoms? If you have more than 2 of these, please seek medical advice

  • Joint pain
  • Stiffness after rest
  • Altered walking pattern
  • Pain can fluctuate throughout the day – dull ache which can switch to intermittent intense episodes
  • Loss of muscle strength
  • Bony enlargement
  • Fatigue

Physiotherapy in the short term

  • Education around exercise and obesity as it has the strongest supporting evidence
    • Education should focus on the importance of weight management and what is healthy for your body type
    • Get exercising. Improving general fitness can reduce pain and increase function. Walking is a great place to start 
  • Improve mobility: soft tissue release, distraction manual therapy, and mobility exercises can reduce pain and increase range of motion
  • Start doing some hip focused strength exercises, for example: sit-to-stand, step-ups, lunges

Physiotherapy in the long term

  • Empower individuals to actively manage their condition and maintain a fulfilled lifestyle
  • Develop an exercise routine that equates to 150 minutes of lower impact moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week, for example: walking, cycling, swimming, golf, hydrotherapy
  • Develop a pain-free strength program that targets all major muscle groups 2-3 days per week

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