What is hip arthritis?

Hip arthritis is inflammation in the hip joint. Arthritis in the hip is typically caused by osteoarthritis (wear and tear arthritis) or rheumatoid arthritis (autoimmune inflammatory arthritis).

Inflammatory arthritis in the hip is typically caused by rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis (chronic inflammation in the spine that can affect the hip) or systemic lupus erythematosus.

Causes of arthritis in the hip

  • Osteoarthritis — the exact cause of osteoarthritis in the hip is unknown, though some scholars attribute arthritis in the hip to joints that have not formed properly, genetic defects in the cartilage or someone putting too much stress on the hip joint.
  • Inflammatory arthritis — although the cause of inflammatory arthritis in the hip is unknown, some researchers suspect that genetics play a role in the development of the disease.

Risk factors for arthritis in the hip

Risk factors for hip osteoarthritis

  • Age — typically osteoarthritis in the hip affects people over the age of 60.
  • Weight — people who are obese or overweight are more likely to develop osteoarthritis in the hip due to the extra weight on the joints.
  • Gender — hip osteoarthritis affects women more commonly than men.
  • Joint injury — injuries that impact the hip bone can lead to arthritis later in life.

Risk factors for inflammatory hip arthritis

  • Age — people between 40 and 60
  • Gender — women are more likely to develop inflammatory arthritis 
  • Environmental exposures such as asbestos and silicone
  • Smoking
  • Family history

Symptoms of arthritis in the hip

Symptoms of hip osteoarthritis

  • Difficulty walking
  • Stabbing, sharp pain that can appear in the hip, groin, buttocks, knee or thigh
  • Stiffness in the hip joint
  • Dull, achy pain in the leg, buttocks or hip

Symptoms of inflammatory arthritis

General symptoms of inflammatory arthritis include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite. Symptoms are exacerbated in the morning or after sitting for long periods.

Other inflammatory hip arthritis symptoms:

  • Pain and stiffness in the groin, knee, buttocks or outer thigh
  • Difficulty walking from the pain in the hip joint
  • Increased pain with forceful activity
  • Crunching of the bone
  • Swelling in the hip area

Diagnosis of arthritis in the hip

Although it is challenging to diagnose hip arthritis, it can be diagnosed in a complete physical with your Mercy Health primary care or orthopedic doctor. In the physical exam, your physician will evaluate you for joint swelling; tenderness in the hip; reduced range of motion in the hip; or any signs of injury to the muscles, tendons and ligaments surrounding the hip.

Your physician may also order x-rays or CT scans or a MRI to determine the condition of the bone and soft tissue in the hip. An abnormal x-ray may show narrowing joints or spurring in the joint margins. Physicians also often order blood tests to test for inflammatory rheumatoid arthritis.

Treatments for arthritis in the hip

There is not a cure for arthritis, so the goal of treatment is to relieve the symptoms, prevent joint destruction and ensure you maintain your activity level.

Nonsurgical treatments for hip osteoarthritis and inflammatory arthritis in the hip include:

  • Rest
  • Anti-inflammatory medications — naproxen or ibuprofen to reduce inflammation
  • Corticosteroids — medication that can be taken by mouth or injection to reduce swelling
  • Exercise
  • Using a cane to take pressure off the affected hip
  • Disease modifying antirheumatic drugs — prescription drugs that slow the progress of rheumatic arthritis.
  • Physical therapy — your physician may prescribe exercises to strengthen muscles and improve range of motion in the hip.

Surgical treatments for hip osteoarthritis and inflammatory arthritis in the hip include:

Total hip replacement

In a total hip replacement, your orthopedic physician will remove the damaged cartilage and replace with metal or plastic joints. Total hip replacements are typically indicated for those patients who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis. A total hip replacement can relieve the symptoms and improve range of motion in the hip.

Hip resurfacing

This surgical technique can help delay hip replacement surgery where the diseased hip surfaces are removed during surgery. The surfaces are then replaced with a metal cap, and the femur is preserved so that hip replacement is an option down the road.


A synovectomy in the hip is a procedure used to treat inflammatory arthritis that removes joint lining to relieve the symptoms. This procedure is typically performed in the early inflammatory arthritis stages.

Recovery from arthritis in the hip

Recovery time is dependent upon what type of procedure you have as well as your age and general health.

Total hip replacements are very successful, and patients can typically return to their routine activities within a few months after the procedure. It is critical to follow your physical therapist’s recommendations so that you do not dislocate the new hip joint.

It will be important to avoid heavy lifting or activity even after the hip has healed.

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