How does arthritis affect the hips?
The hip is commonly affected by arthritis, particularly osteoarthritis (OA). You may notice pain in your hip, groin, buttock and/or thigh areas, felt as sharp pain or an ache. It is often most noticeably when you walk, climb stairs, stand up from a seated position, squat and/or first get out of bed in the morning.
There are many things that can help you manage arthritis of the hip. The first steps are regular exercise, weight loss and using medicines wisely
What can I do?
There are many treatments that can be helpful for arthritis of the hip. Here are some tips.
Find out what type of arthritis you have
Learn about the type of arthritis you have and your treatment options. Ask your doctor about creating a tailored management plan (GPMP) and team care arrangement (TCA) for you. This includes subsidised care from a team of healthcare professionals such as physiotherapists, dietitians, and others. Your local Arthritis office may also run self management courses to help you develop skills to manage your symptoms, communicate with your healthcare team and lessen the impact of arthritis on your life.
Being overweight can lead to more pain and damage to hips and knees affected by arthritis. Lose any extra body weight if you are overweight to lighten the load on your sore joints. See a dietitian for help if you are finding it difficult to maintain a healthy body weight.
Regular exercise is one of the most important treatments for arthritis of the hip. It helps to reduce pain and maintain your general health. To protect your sore joints, try low-impact activities, where there is less weight going through your hips and knees such as swimming, cycling and walking. You could also try:
- Water exercise: buoyancy of the water takes pressure off your hips and you may find you can move more freely than you can on land. See Water exercise for more information.
- Strengthening exercises: Exercises to strengthen the muscles around your hip can also help reduce pain. See Strength training for more information.
- Tai chi: Studies show that tai chi can help reduce pain and stiffness for people with arthritis. See Tai chi for more information.
If you have hip pain, you are more likely to have weakness and tightness of certain muscles in the hip and leg. If possible, consult a physiotherapist or exercise physiologist for advice about a program to suit you. See Physical activity for more information about exercise.
Your doctor may recommend certain medicines to help reduce your hip pain, depending on what type of arthritis you have and your medical history. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about medicines and the best way to use them for your condition. See Medicines for more information
Recent research has shown that understanding how pain works and how you respond to it can help you prevent pain controlling your life. Activities such as pain coaching, cognitive behavioural therapy from a psychologist, or mindfulness are effective for many people. More information is available at www.painhealth.csse.uwa.edu.au or mindspot.org.au/about-pain. See Dealing with pain for other tips for coping with pain.
Aids or supports
Walking sticks or canes may help reduce the load on your hip and lessen pain. Always use the walking stick on the opposite side to your sore joint (if your right hip is affected, use the walking stick in your left hand). See a physiotherapist for advice about any of these aids or supports.
This interactive website is for people with osteoarthritis and provides information and tools to help you manage your condition. Experts provide information via text and videos and its weekly check-ups can help you track your osteoarthritis so you can see what works for you.
If your hip pain is severely affecting you quality of life, despite trying the treatment options listed above, your doctor may recommend hip surgery. See Surgery for arthritis for more information.
There are many other treatments for hip arthritis that are either untested or have been shown to provide little benefit.
- Glucosamine and chondroitin. The results from studies of glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin sulfate are unclear. See Glucosamine and chondroitin for more information
- Herbal therapies. There isn’t much evidence to prove that certain herbal therapies are useful for arthritis of the hip. See Complementary therapies for more information.
- TENS, ultrasound, laser. These treatments may be used by a physiotherapist. TENS or laser treatment are unlikely to provide benefit for hip arthritis. See a physiotherapist to trial a TENS machine (a machine that applies very mild electrical pulses to block pain messages going to your brain) before buying one as not all people will find it beneficial. Ultrasound may provide some small benefit for some people.
- Acupuncture. The latest evidence does not support the use of acupuncture for hip arthritis.
- Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) and stem cell injections. Trials are underway to assess whether these have any benefit. At this time, there is not enough evidence to recommend their use due to their cost, risks, and the lack of standards and understanding about their use.
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