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The hip joint is a ball and socket joint. The ball is the femoral head at the top of the thigh bone (femur), and the socket is formed by the acetabulum which is part of the pelvic bone.

The joint surfaces are covered in cartilage, a smooth, slippery layer that protects and cushions the bones and allows them to glide over each other easily with little friction.


Osteoarthritis is a degenerative type of arthritis that usually occurs in people in their late 40s onwards. In osteoarthritis, the cartilage of the hip joint wears away gradually over time. The usually smooth surfaces become frayed and rough, and the protective joint space between the bones decreases. This can result in bone rubbing on bone, causing pain and stiffness.

Hip Osteoarthritis


Osteoarthritis has no single specific cause, and is not yet fully understood. There are certain risk factors that may make you more likely to develop the disease, including:

  • Increasing age

  • Family history of osteoarthritis

  • Previous injury to the hip joint

  • Obesity

  • Abnormal hip development in childhood

You can still develop osteoarthritis even if you do not have any of the risk factors listed above.


The most common symptom of hip osteoarthritis is pain. The hip pain tends to develop slowly and worsens over time. Pain and stiffness may be worse in the morning, or after sitting and resting for a while. Over time, the pain may occur more frequently, including at rest or at night. Additional symptoms may include:

  • Pain in the groin or thigh that radiates to the buttocks or knees

  • Pain that flares up with vigorous activity

  • Stiffness that makes it difficult to walk or bend

  • A grating or grinding noise/sensation in the hip (crepitus)

  • Decreased range of movement in the hip that affects the ability to walk and may cause a limp

  • Increased joint pain with cold or rainy weather.


Although there is no cure for osteoarthritis, there is a range of treatment options that may help to relieve pain and improve mobility. These include both nonsurgical and surgical treatments.

Nonsurgical Treatment:

  • Lifestyle modifications

    • Minimising activities that aggravate the conditions e.g. climbing stairs​.

    • Switching from high-impact activities (like running and tennis) to lower-impact activities (like swimming or cycling) will put less stress through the hip.

    • Weight loss can reduce the force and hence the stress through the hip joint, resulting in less pain and increased function.

  • Physical therapy

    • Specific exercises can increase range of motion and flexibility, as well as strengthen the muscles around the hip and in the leg​.

  • Assistive devices​​

    • A walking stick or crutches can improve mobility, and independence​.

  • Painkillers

    • Paracetamol and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS, e.g. Ibuprofen) should be used with guidance from your GP or pharmacist​.

    • Corticosteroids are powerful anti-inflammatory agents that can be injected into the painful joint.

Surgical Treatment:

Surgery may be recommended if the pain from your arthritis causes disability and is not being managed adequately with nonsurgical treatments. The options include:

  • Total hip replacement

  • Hip resurfacing

  • Osteotomy (rarely)


Milton Way



Secretary: Julie Bell


Telephone: 01733 842309


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North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust (NWAFT)
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