Overview of Hip Osteoarthritis

Hip osteoarthritis is a common type of osteoarthritis. Since the hip is a weight-bearing joint, osteoarthritis can cause significant problems. About 1 in 4 Americans can expect to develop osteoarthritis of the hip during their lifetime, according to the American College of Rheumatology.

Early diagnosis and treatment help manage hip osteoarthritis symptoms. With this overview of the condition, better understand the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options.

An X-ray showing hip arthritis
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Hip osteoarthritis is caused by the deterioration of articular cartilage and wear-and-tear of the hip joint. This happens for several reasons, including:

  • Previous hip injury
  • Previous fracture, which changes the hip alignment
  • Genetics
  • Congenital and developmental hip disease
  • A subchondral bone that is too soft or too hard
  • Avascular necrosis


Your doctor will consider your complete medical history, results from your physical examination, and X-rays to determine the extent of joint damage and formulate a diagnosis of hip osteoarthritis. If more information is needed, an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) may be ordered by your doctor. Blood tests may be used if it is necessary to rule out other types of arthritis.

According to the American College of Rheumatology classification criteria for osteoarthritis of the hip, there must be hip pain and at least two of the following three criteria:

  • Erythrocyte sedimentation rate < 20 mm/hr
  • Femoral or acetabular osteophytes seen on X-ray
  • Joint space narrowing seen on X-ray


Patients who have hip osteoarthritis have pain localized to the groin area and the front or side of the thigh. Morning stiffness, although for a shorter amount of time that occurs with rheumatoid arthritis, is also characteristic of hip osteoarthritis. Most significantly, there is limited range of motion of the hip and pain during motion. The symptoms can worsen to the point that pain is constantly present.


Hip osteoarthritis cannot be cured, but there are treatments available to help manage symptoms. Treatment plans should be personalized to each patient, according to the American College of Rheumatology, and other conditions must be considered.

Medications are one way to treat hip osteoarthritis. For mild cases, acetaminophen is usually tried first. NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory) and opioid analgesics are used for moderate to severe hip osteoarthritis.

There are also non-drug treatments that can help, such as weight loss. While normal weight people have a 20 percent risk of hip OA, overweight people have a 25 percent risk, and obese people have a 39 percent risk. Water exercise programs, physical therapy (range of motion and strengthening exercises), and occupational therapy (assistive devices, joint protection) have also proven helpful. Patient education helps as well.

Surgery is considered a last resort treatment option. Surgery is appropriate for patients with hip osteoarthritis who have failed other more conservative treatment options. Surgical procedures include:

  • Arthroscopy" an arthroscope checks the condition of the articular cartilage
  • Osteotomy: realigns angles of the hip joint
  • Total hip replacement: new acetabular and femoral components are implanted

An accurate diagnosis and early treatment help decrease pain and improve function for the hip osteoarthritis patient. As the condition advances, appropriate treatment changes can be made.

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Article Sources
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  • A Patient's Guide to Osteoarthritis of the Hip. eOrthopod.

  • Guidelines for the Medical Management of Osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis of the Hip. Arthritis & Rheumatism. Nov 1995.