Hip arthritis

What is it?

Osteoarthritis (arthritis) of the hip is caused by damage to the cartilage covering the joint surfaces in the hip.


It is often caused by age related wear and tear, but osteoarthritis can also be caused by abnormalities of the hip due to other conditions such as hip dysplasia, avascular necrosis, or femoroacetabular impingement (FAI).


These include a dull ache in the hips, which may come and go and also affect the groin, buttocks and thighs. In some cases, pain may make it difficult to walk long distances without limping. Going upstairs and bending down to tie shoes or cut toenails may also be more difficult and night pain can disturb your sleep.


After discussing your symptoms, the specialist will usually back up the diagnosis with X-rays and MRI or CT scans to show the extent of damage to the cartilage and to see if there is an underlying cause.


Non-operative treatment: this includes taking anti-inflammatory medication, if advised by your doctor, along with a rehabilitation programme of gentle exercises to improve your strength and range of movement. Weight loss, combined with using an exercise bike, can be very effective in the early stages. However, arthritis is a progressive condition that will become worse over time.

Surgery: total hip replacement surgery is the only treatment that can ‘cure’ hip arthritis but is only advised when pain is significantly affecting your everyday life. In a few cases, arthroscopy can be performed to treat ‘catching’ of the joint in patients up to around their mid-40s. However, although this can relieve the problem in the short term, there is strong scientific evidence that arthroscopy does not provide long term symptom relief.

Important: This information is only a guideline to help you understand your treatment and what to expect. Every person is different and your rehabilitation may be quicker or slower than other people’s. Please contact us for advice if you are worried about any aspect of your health or recovery.

Hip replacement surgery is carried out when other treatments
This procedure involves changing the orientation of the hip socket in patients with hip dysplasia.
Arthroscopy is a type of keyhole surgery used to diagnose and treat joint problems.