• Dr. Yako Merogi

Understanding Hip Osteoarthritis


Throughout our lives, our joints experience a certain amount of stress and strain. We get injured, we heal, and the process repeats itself. Sometimes the body may not heal to its former glory and our movement modifies and becomes less efficient. The cycle continues. Over time, the load placed on our joints may become excessive and this may lead to the onset of a condition called osteoarthritis (OA). People often refer to this condition as ‘wear and tear’ of the joints.


Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, and the hip is the second most likely joint to be affected (just behind the knees). So, it’s worth knowing what to look out for and what you can do to help take care of your hips.


What causes hip osteoarthritis?


Osteoarthritis is a result of a gradual degeneration of the cartilage that lines the ends of bones that join to form joints. There is no one specific cause. Almost any joint in the body can develop osteoarthritis, but load-bearing joints (such as the knees, hips and spine) are the most susceptible.


One in ten people over the age of 65 will experience hip osteoarthritis, although it can develop from the age of 45 (it is highly unlikely, but not impossible, to develop earlier).


If you have a family history of osteoarthritis, have had a hip injury or hip function problems in the past, are overweight or have a job that involves long periods of standing or heavy lifting, then you are at increased risk of osteoarthritis.


What are the symptoms of hip osteoarthritis?


Hip osteoarthritis thins the cartilage of the hip joint and makes the surfaces of the hip joint rougher. This can lead to pain and swelling in the area.


People with hip osteoarthritis often experience at least some of the following:


  • Progressively increasing pain in the hip

  • Pain felt with movement (although it may ease off with continued movement) and at rest

  • Pain that is aggravated by cold weather

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

  • Stiffness of the hip or a “locking” sensation in the joint

  • Decreased range of motion or an affected walking pattern (i.e. limp)


However, approximately 50% of patients with hip osteoarthritis do not have these symptoms, so any changes in your movement as you get older are worth getting checked out, just in case.


How can hip osteoarthritis be treated?


One of the most effective ways to treat osteoarthritis is with exercise. We can work with you to develop an exercise program that will strengthen the muscles around your hip, stabilize and protect the joint, increase your range of motion, improve your posture and reduce any additional strain on the joint.


We will also take a look at the physical activities you are doing day-to-day, and advise you how best to structure them so that you are keeping your hip moving but not overdoing it. It’s important to keep moving when you have osteoarthritis, but breaking up physical tasks into chunks rather than doing too much at once can help to reduce the pressure on your joints. There may also be insoles, walking aids or other forms of supportive equipment that we can recommend to take stress off your hip, as well as changes to your lifestyle and home/work set-up that may help.


Manual therapy and massage are also frequently used to reduce pain and increase movement.


When it comes to osteoarthritis of any kind, the sooner you get treatment, the better. In the worst-case scenario, hip osteoarthritis could require surgery or even a total hip replacement. So come and see us early before the pain gets too severe.


How can hip osteoarthritis be prevented?


The sooner you start to look after your hips, the more you can reduce your risk of developing osteoarthritis. Here are a few things you can start doing right now:


  • Regular exercises to strengthen the muscles around the joint and stretching to improve mobility will help to protect the hip from degeneration.

  • Make sure you always use the correct technique to lift heavy items, and don’t lift excessive loads.

  • Maintain a healthy weight, as obesity puts strain on your hips.

  • If you are sitting for long periods of time, ensure that your chair provides adequate support and that your hips are slightly higher than your knees. Try to avoid crossing your legs. Take regular breaks to move around.


If you have any questions about taking care of your joints as you get older, we are here to help! Call us on (905) 265-0006 or email drmerogi@bodycure.ca and we can assess your current situation and advise you on how to move forward.

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