Hip osteoarthritis (OA) causes the cartilage that cushions your joints to be lost, resulting in pain and stiffness.
Your doctor will be able to provide recommendations based on your condition. The treatments range from conservative to invasive. Conservative treatments include exercising and stretching. Invasive treatments include hip replacement surgery. All these treatments can help manage pain and improve mobility.
Because hip arthritis is a degenerative condition, your symptoms will likely worsen as the cartilage breaks down even more. Some people can go many years using conservative treatments before surgery is indicated. Read on to learn about the treatment options you have for hip arthritis.
Pain management is among the first-line treatment methods for hip arthritis. For those with mild symptoms, over-the-counter ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or naproxen may control the pain. These medications have anti-inflammatory effects as well, so they may also reduce irritation of nerves.
People with moderate to severe OA of the hip may require more help in the form of prescription pain relievers and anti-arthritis medications.
Doctors may offer injections to reduce pain. These injections include the following:
Hyaluronic acid: Hyaluronic acid provides lubrication to your joints and reduces stiffness, but it has not been approved by the FDA for use in the hip.
Steroid injections: Corticosteroid injections can reduce inflammation and swelling in the hip, which reduces pain. But these injections may also thin the surrounding bones. Also, the pain relief may be only temporary.
Platelet-rich plasma therapy: Some athletes, including Tiger Woods and Rafael Nadal, use this new therapy approach on the knee. It uses a sample of your own blood to create a concentration of blood platelets. The platelets are then injected into the damaged area of the cartilage to relieve pain and speed healing.
Many of these pain management options are used along with physical therapy exercises.
Low-impact physical therapy can also keep you flexible and allow your hips to move more smoothly. Good exercises for physical therapy include:
If you’re unsure about proper posture and alignment, ask your doctor to recommend a physical therapist. They can guide you through exercises and minimize the chance of injury.
Stretching on a regular basis can help relieve stiff, achy, or painful joints. All stretches should be done gently. Be sure to stop if you feel pain. Use caution when exercising. If you don’t feel pain after the first few days of exercise, gradually increase the time you spend on this activity.
Here are a few possible stretches:
Start with your feet shoulder-width apart or sit in a chair. Slowly lean forward, keeping your upper body relaxed. You should feel the stretch in your hips and lower back.
Lie on your back. Pull your bent knee up toward your chest until you feel a stretch. If your body allows it, use your other leg to deepen the stretch.
Extended leg balance
This is the same exercise as the knee pull, but it’s done from a standing position. Place one hand along the wall for support.
Start by lying facedown on the floor. Your palms should be on the floor at shoulder or chest height. Push against your palms to lift your chest off the floor. Feel the stretch in your lower back and hips. Hold this position for 10 seconds. Release. Repeat two or three times.
Ask your doctor before starting any stretches or exercises for your hip. Here are some other stretches you can ask your doctor about:
- standing hip flexors
- sitting stretch
- side angle pose
- seated spinal twist
Your lifestyle can contribute to hip arthritis, particularly if you do a lot of physical labor. If you’re overweight, losing weight can help to reduce pressure on your joints. Lifestyle changes, along with medical treatment, can also help calm symptoms.
Try these self-care routines for relief:
- Get more rest: Eliminate or reduce activities that make your symptoms worse, especially during a flare-up.
- Lose weight: Excess weight puts more pressure on your hips and knees.
- Change your diet: Research shows that a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids can reduce the signs of arthritis in cartilage.
- Use compresses: Apply heat to a stiff hip joint or cold to swollen areas.
- Exercise regularly: It has been shown that low-impact exercise, done routinely and coupled with a weight-loss program, can help a person put off surgery for a long time.
Some people have also tried using natural therapies to treat hip arthritis. Although research related to the effectiveness of natural therapies isn’t always conclusive, many people have found relief using approaches such as:
- supplements, such as capsaicin, glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, gamma linolenic acid (GLA), and ginger
Always talk to your doctor before taking any supplement. Natural supplements can interact with medications.
Sometimes taking pressure off the hips and providing additional support to the joints can help to reduce osteoarthritis pain. A cane or a walker can help reduce pressure on the hip joints when walking. It can also reduce your risk of falling by helping your stability and balance.
Here are a few tips for using a cane:
Ensure the cane is not too tall or short. You should not slump or slouch over when using a cane, and its height should come to the top of your wrist.
Use the cane on your “strong” side. If your affected hip is your right one, you should hold the cane with your left hand. When you step forward with your right leg, the cane will provide support. Your affected leg and the cane should move at the same time.
Advance the cane an appropriate distance. The cane should move about 2 inches to the front or side of you. If it’s too far away from your body, you might be thrown off balance.
A physical therapist can demonstrate these techniques for safe use.
Check if your insurance companies will reimburse you for these aids. Your doctor can write a prescription for these mobility aids to help in the reimbursement process.
Surgery is an option when conservative treatments don’t provide enough relief. Your doctor may also recommend surgery if your hip arthritis causes disabilities. Surgery options include:
- Hip resurfacing: The damaged bone and cartilage are replaced by a metal shell.
- Total hip replacement: Both the socket and the head of the femur are replaced by artificial surfaces.
Hip replacement surgery can improve your quality of life. The most common complication is hip dislocation. This complication is less common now with the newer total joints and the larger femoral head. Follow after-care steps to reduce the risk of hip dislocation. According to the University of Washington, 10-year success rates for hip replacement surgeries are greater than 90 percent. For those who have had hip arthritis for a long time, hip surgery can be life-changing. The greatest serious risk is a deep venous thrombosis and resulting pulmonary embolus.
Doctors are constantly conducting research to find new medications and treatments to treat or maybe even cure OA. Much of the latest research has been focused on the potential of stem cells.
Growing new cartilage
A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that researchers could use stem cells to grow new cartilage. The researchers then used the cartilage to create a “scaffold,” or cover, which can be applied over the hip joint to reduce pain and stiffness related to arthritis.
A research study published in the journal Arthritis Research & Therapy detailed the concept of reprogramming cells to restore cartilage and bone.
These studies have yet to begin animal or human trials and may have many years to go before the treatment is approved.
Osteoarthritis has no cure, but there are plenty of effective treatments to help you manage your chronic condition. Treatments for hip arthritis can be conservative or invasive. Many people find relief with medication, exercise, and supplements. It’s important to find ways to keep pressure off your hip to reduce pain.
Speak to your doctor early on, so you can put a treatment plan in place. The earlier you begin your treatment, the better your outlook will be.