Symptoms of Hip Arthritis

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Arthritis is a common cause of pain, inflammation, and stiffness around the hip joints, where the pelvis and legs meet. There are several different types of hip arthritis, and many factors can contribute to the various types, including genetics.

Hip arthritis symptoms commonly include pain, swelling, stiffness, and limited mobility. The specific symptoms for the different hip arthritis conditions can sometimes overlap, which is why it’s important to get an accurate diagnosis.

Hip pain

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Types of Hip Arthritis

A handful of different arthritis conditions commonly cause pain in the hip area:

  • Osteoarthritis (OA) is a common cause of hip pain in adults, though it can also affect other joints, such as the hand or knee joints. Also called “wear-and-tear” arthritis, hip osteoarthritis is characterized by progressive wearing away of the joint cartilage. As the protective cartilage is worn away, bare bone is exposed in the joint, causing pain and stiffness.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that affects roughly 1.5 million adults in the United States. In people with RA, the immune system mistakenly attacks the lining of the joints. Like other forms of hip arthritis, RA causes different joints in the body to swell and become painful.
  • Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a chronic type of inflammatory arthritis that affects the spinal joints and surrounding areas, mostly in men and young to middle-aged adults. Typically, pain and stiffness starts in the spine and can spread to other nearby body parts. Hip pain is usually one of the first noticeable symptoms in people with AS.
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), a form of lupus, is an autoimmune disease that can lead to joint inflammation and damage. People with lupus may have hip pain due to arthritis. They also have an increased risk of a condition called aseptic necrosis of the bone. This occurs more frequently in those patients taking high doses of steroids.
  • Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) is a type of inflammatory arthritis that affects some people who have psoriasis, an itchy, painful skin condition. With PsA, the immune system attacks normal cells and tissue throughout the body, leading to joint pain, stiffness, and swelling in the hips or other parts of the body.

Common Symptoms

Although all of the various forms of hip arthritis usually come with some sort of pain, the type of pain may feel different or present differently, depending on the specific condition.

The primary symptom of hip arthritis is pain that can range from mild to severe and be described as aching, sharp, burning, throbbing, or dull, among other sensations. It’s also important to keep in mind that while pain is typically felt in the hip area, the exact location of the pain can vary.

Aside from pain, common symptoms can also include:

  • Limited range of motion
  • Stiffness in the hip area
  • Pain that spreads to the groin, buttock, lower back, thigh, or knee
  • Walking with a limp

In general, there are also some differences in pain felt between the two main categories of arthritis:

  • Inflammatory arthritis pain (the pain felt with AS, RA, PsA, and SLE) is often described as deep, sharp, stiff, burning, or tingling. Inflammatory pain usually eases with movement or activity, and may get worse with prolonged rest.
  • Osteoarthritis pain is commonly reported as an aching or soreness. This kind of pain typically gets worse with movement or activity, and improves with periods of rest.

Secondary Symptoms

All types of hip arthritis have the symptom of pain in common, but there are also additional symptoms that can be felt with each form of hip arthritis.

Osteoarthritis

In addition to the pain and stiffness that classifies hip osteoarthritis, patients report feeling an ache in the affected joints that can sometimes appear to be impacted by weather changes.

This condition can also cause restricted movement and, in some cases, a limp. In extreme cases, the affected hip can become fixed in a bent position, which makes movement extremely difficult.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Because RA is an autoimmune condition, it comes with several non-pain-related symptoms that aren’t always linked to the joints. For example, some patients with RA that has progressed report feeling stiff or sore when sitting down or bending over.

But there are also symptoms that affect the lungs, such as difficulty breathing deeply or catching the breath. In addition to hip pain, RA patients can develop lumps under the skin called rheumatoid nodules, usually on areas like the hands or elbows.

Ankylosing Spondylitis

Some AK symptoms overlap with PsA symptoms, such as the swelling that comes along with the pain. This form of arthritis is considered to be chronic and debilitating, and in addition to joint pain, it can cause fatigue, eye inflammation, chest pain, and more rarely, heart or lung symptoms.

SLE

Along with joint pain, SLE patients report feeling muscle pain and weakness, in addition to tendonitis and bursitis, which also affect the joint area. Other symptoms commonly include extreme fatigue, weight loss, hair loss, appetite loss, and skin rash.

Psoriatic Arthritis

Accompanying the joint pain, swelling and stiffness experienced in the morning (or after a long period of rest) are major secondary symptoms associated with PsA. Patients also report experiencing fatigue, eye issues (like conjunctivitis or pink eye), and nail deformities.

When to See a Doctor

Hip pain is fairly common among adults in the United States, and while it can sometimes improve on its own, experts recommend bringing it up to your doctor to get a formal diagnosis.

Your primary care doctor or healthcare professional may refer you to an orthopedic physician if your hip pain seems like it may be osteoarthritis, or a rheumatologist if your hip pain appears to be inflammatory like RA, PsA, AK, or SLE.

Be sure to mention whether your hip pain comes on suddenly, is gradual, or is sporadic. Hip arthritis symptoms tend to progress as the condition worsens—but they don’t always progress steadily with time, meaning that the pain intensity can change by the day, environment, or activity.

Seek immediate medical attention if your hip pain is sudden, severe, worsening, or if you’ve had an injury from falling or another trauma. You should also consider seeking urgent care if you experience any of the following along with your hip pain:

  • Fever
  • Bruising or bleeding
  • Inability to walk or bear weight
  • Warmth radiating from the hip area

A Word From Verywell

A common myth when it comes to hip arthritis pain is that it only affects older adults, but it can happen in younger populations too.

Research shows that in young people, the reporting and diagnosis of osteoarthritis can often be delayed or difficult to determine due to factors like a high tolerance for pain or wanting to return to sports or activities quickly.

If you experience hip pain, you might be tempted to believe that it’s only temporary and self-treat by resting, getting massages, or taking over-the-counter pain relievers. While these approaches may bring relief in the short term, it’s essential to get a healthcare professional’s opinion to fully address the underlying cause with medical treatment.

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