Arthritis of the hip

The most prominent symptom of hip arthritis is pain and/or stiffness. Most patients think that their hip is in the region of the buttock or on the side (where you can feel bone) and are surprised to learn that true hip pain is most commonly experienced in the groin. The pain can radiate down the front of the thigh, to the side and into the buttock as well. Occasionally it goes all the way down the thigh to the knee – this is because the hip and knee have an overlapping nerve supply.

Patients with significant hip disease may have a limp and occasionally one leg may feel shorter than the other. As the disease progresses, the hip becomes painful and stiff. Common symptoms people notice is difficulty cutting toenails or putting on shoes and socks. Sleeping often becomes disrupted as a result of pain. As the condition deteriorates, you may have to take a break even after walking short distances. With end-stage bone-on-bone contact, you may sometimes feel the hip creaking during walking, although most people do not wait that long before they have it replaced.

Osteoarthritis (OA)

Osteoarthritis of a joint arises from the wearing away of cartilage. The cartilage covers the parts of the bones that move against each other. Cartilage, in combination with the body’s lubricating joint fluid provides almost frictionless motion between the two surfaces. Without this protection, the bones themselves rub together which causes pain and subsequent stiffness. Patients who have early-stage osteoarthritis often notice pain at the beginning of a movement or during the first few minutes of exercise before the joints are given a chance to warm up. Once activity gets underway, the pain usually diminishes, although it is likely to increase again after resting for several minutes. As the condition worsens, pain may be present even at rest. Symptoms are generally aggravated even further in cold or wet weather conditions. Approximately 50% of people over the age of 35 display early signs of the disease. The most common causes of OA in younger adults are due to subtle developmental deformities such as femoroacetabular impingement or developmental dysplasia (see below).

Inflammatory arthritis

Inflammatory arthritis (e.g. rheumatoid) is a condition where the body’s immune system attacks the joints causing inflammation and pain. The synovium (lining of the joints) swells and joints become stiff and harder to move, especially early in the morning. There is no known cure, although various medicines can help ease symptoms. Joint replacement surgery is very effective in easing the pain and stiffness.