Ten Signs You Might Have Hip Arthritis

Learn why it is important to catch your hip arthritis early in order to reduce the effect it could have on your daily activities.

Hip arthritis can cause mobility problems and pain but if it is caught early, people can preserve their quality of life. I frequently see patients who have had arthritis for a long time and do not recognize it. My goal is to help diagnose patients’ hip arthritis early and prevent severe damage to the joint.

Man having problems putting on shoes because he has hip arthritis | Muir Orthopaedic Specialists | Walnut Creek, CAThe hip is a ball-and-socket joint that is covered by a slippery tissue called articular cartilage. This cartilage creates a smooth surface that helps the bones glide over each other and not cause friction.

Arthritis can cause problems with the function of the hip joint and cause pain and stiffness, which can make it difficult to do many everyday activities. Having arthritis in both hip joints, one for each leg, is very common. It is uncommon for arthritis to affect both hip joints to the same extent. Most of the time one hip joint is worse than the other.

Hip arthritis is becoming increasingly more common especially as people stay active later in life. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), from 2013 to 2015 an estimated 54.4 million adults in the United States were told each year they had some form of arthritis. That’s 22.7 percent of the U.S. adult population.

Luckily, California is one of the states with a smaller percentage of people with arthritis. According to CDC statistics, in 2015 18.3 percent of adults in California had arthritis. While these numbers are for all areas of the body and not just patients with hip arthritis, it shows the prevalence of this disease.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for arthritis, but there are many treatment options to reduce symptoms. These treatments can range from avoiding activities, medication or a joint replacement surgery. Being in regular contact with your orthopedist is best to find the right treatment for you.

Types of hip arthritis

There are over 100 types of arthritis. The three types that affect the hip the most are osteoarthritis, inflammatory arthritis and psoriatic arthritis.

Hip osteoarthritis

The most common form of arthritis in the hip is osteoarthritis. This is caused by wear and tear in the hip joint that causes cartilage damage at the end of the bones over time. A person can be at higher risk for osteoarthritis if he or she has had joint trauma, has structural problems (hip dysplasia, femoroacetabular impingement) or is obese. Symptoms tend to show up for people 50 or older but can occur in younger people.

Inflammatory arthritis of the hip

Inflammatory arthritis, which involves inflammation of the joints and often surrounding tissue, is another possible form of arthritis that can affect the hip joint. This can show up in people of all ages, but frequently symptoms start in early childhood. Types of inflammatory hip arthritis include the following.

  • Rheumatoid arthritis. This is an autoimmune disorder in which the body sees the protective lining around your joints as a threat and attacks it as something bad. This causes fluid to build up in the joint, resulting in swelling, stiffness and pain.
  • Ankylosing spondylitis. This is chronic inflammation that typically is experienced in flare ups of discomfort and pain. It is most often related to the spine but can affect the hip and other areas. People generally start to experience symptoms between the age of 17 and 35.
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Also known as lupus, SLE is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system mistakenly attacks tissues and organs. The inflammation from lupus can affect joints, skin, blood cells and organs. It is most common in women between the age of 15 to 35.

Psoriatic arthritis

This form of arthritis is linked to the skin condition psoriasis. It can cause joint pain, stiffness and swelling. Most people are first diagnosed with the skin condition prior to developing psoriatic arthritis. The main psoriatic arthritis symptoms are joint pain, swelling and stiffness in the affected joint, which can be the hip joints.

How to know if you have hip arthritis

Having problems with one particular routine task is a common giveaway that hip arthritis is affecting your life: putting on your socks and shoes. You need an adequate range of motion in your hips to put your foot up on your opposing leg to put on your shoes and socks. People with hip arthritis tend to lose the range of motion in the hips. Problems putting on your socks and shoes are not always associated with pain but rather just becomes more difficult to do.

You can also tell how long you have been affected by hip arthritis by looking back at how long you have been having problems putting on your socks and shoes. Hip arthritis can onset rapidly and deteriorate the range of motion in the hips quickly. A patient can go from seeing no signs to needing a hip replacement in less than 24 months.

While that is a common symptom, there are many others that a person could be experiencing. Regardless of the type of arthritis, other signs of hip arthritis can include:

  • Pain in the groin or thigh that radiates to your knee, outer thigh or buttocks.
  • Pain that is worse in the morning or after sitting for a while.
  • Flare ups after vigorous activity.
  • Limping or pain that causes difficulty walking.
  • Sticking or locking of the hip joint.
  • Difficulty getting out of a car.
  • Pain when leaning over.
  • Grinding noises during movement.
  • Increased pain in rainy weather.

A person with hip arthritis can expect to see these symptoms get worse over time. At the beginning they can be intermittent and tied to certain activities, but the hip joint often continues to deteriorate.

Treatment for hip arthritis

There is no cure for any type of arthritis, including hip arthritis, but there may be more ways to treat the pain and other symptoms than you would imagine.

For most patients with mild hip arthritis, early stages of treatment can include:

  • Rest and ice.
  • Activity modifications.
  • Weight loss.
  • Canes or crutches.
  • Pain reducers:
    • Anti-inflammatory medications (oral or topical).
    • Acetaminophen (Tylenol).
    • Duloxetine (Cymbalta).
    • Capsaicin.
    • Opioid and narcotic analgesics.
  • The drug Diacerein – Slow cartilage breakdown.
  • Risedronate (Actonel) – Reduces cartilage degeneration.
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) –Electrodes placed on the skin send weak electrical currents to stop messages of pain receptors in the nerves from reaching the brain.
  • Corticosteroid injections – A steroid that helps with hip pain, inflammation and swelling.
  • Hyaluronic acid injection – Uses a substance similar to what naturally occurs in the joints as a shock absorber and lubricant.

Patients with severe arthritis often benefit from hip replacement surgery. The hip surgeons at Muir Ortho offer a range of hip replacement options including total hip replacement, minimally invasive total hip replacement, anterior minimally invasive hip replacement or computer navigation hip replacement.

We recommend that any patient who believes he or she may have hip arthritis (or any form of arthritis) come in to see an orthopedic specialist to learn about their treatment options. The sooner we are able to identify the problem, the better chances we have to help our patients stay active and pain-free.