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With hip osteoarthritis (OA), the cartilage that cushions your joints wears away, causing friction, damage to the bones, and inflammation. Pain and stiffness can result.
Your healthcare provider will recommend treatment based on:
- your overall health
- the severity of joint involvement
- the severity of symptoms
- motion and weight-bearing limitations
- other individual factors.
All treatments for hip osteoarthritis aim to manage pain and improve mobility, but the right option will depend on the individual. Initial treatment may simply be exercise and stretching.
However, osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease, which means symptoms often worsen over time. If this happens, your healthcare provider may recommend hip replacement surgery.
Read on to learn about the available treatment options for hip arthritis.
People with a high body mass index (BMI) have a higher risk for osteoarthritis. The additional weight puts extra strain on the joints. A higher BMI, including having obesity, may also contribute to inflammation.
These factors can make symptoms worse and cause them to progress more quickly.
For people with overweight or obesity, medical experts strongly recommend losing weight.
Your healthcare provider can help you decide if this option is suitable for you and, if so, the best way to approach weight loss.
They’ll likely recommend dietary changes and an exercise program.
Pain relief medication can play a role in managing this disorder alongside exercise and weight management.
For those with mild symptoms, oral nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may help manage pain and inflammation. These are available over the counter.
People with moderate to severe OA of the hip may need prescription pain relief, such as duloxetine or tramadol.
Apart from tramadol, experts do not recommend other opioid medications, as there’s a high risk of dependency.
Healthcare providers may prescribe steroid injections to reduce severe pain and swelling.
Steroids can help manage pain by reducing inflammation. However, they offer only temporary pain relief. Long-term use may lead to negative effects.
Exercise is essential for reducing the risk of osteoarthritis and slowing its progress. Exercise not only helps you manage your weight, but it also improves strength, flexibility, and mobility.
Low-impact exercises are less likely to put strain on a damaged joint. Experts strongly recommend tai chi for people with hip osteoarthritis.
Other options include:
If you haven’t exercised for a while, ask your healthcare provider or physical therapist for suggestions. They can help you create a program that will suit you and minimize the chance of injury.
Motivation is important when exercising for health.
The American College of Rheumatology and the Arthritis Foundation (ACR/AF) recommend exercising with another person or a trainer and choosing an activity that you enjoy.
Regular stretching can help relieve stiff, achy, or painful joints. Here are some tips to help you stretch safely:
- Start by asking a physical therapist for suggestions and guidance.
- Do all stretches gently and build up flexibility slowly.
- Stop if you feel pain.
- Increase intensity slowly.
If you don’t feel pain after the first few days of an activity, gradually spend more time on it. At first, you may find it hard to stretch very far, but your flexibility will increase over time, as you practice.
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 you start 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.
Here are some other stretches you can ask your healthcare provider about:
- standing hip flexors
- sitting stretch
- side angle pose
- seated spinal twist
Ask your healthcare provider before starting any stretches or exercises for your hip.
Experts say that self-management is essential for treating osteoarthritis.
- learning as much as you can about your condition
- knowing what your treatment options are
- taking an active part in managing your pain and other symptoms
- discussing what is best for you with your healthcare provider
- taking care of yourself regarding both diet and nutrition, restorative sleep, and appropriate exercise
Lifestyle factors that can contribute to hip arthritis include:
- dietary choices
- type and level of physical activity
- use of tobacco and alcohol
- getting appropriate care for other mental and physical health conditions
- establishing healthy sleeping habits
Osteoarthritis can also affect a person’s mental health. Staying active and making positive lifestyle choices can help reduce the risk of depression and anxiety with osteoarthritis.
Here are some self-care tips that may offer relief:
- Get enough rest. Establish regular sleeping habits and rest when symptoms feel worse than usual.
- Manage stress. Exercise, meditation, and listening to music may help you relax, avoid stress, and lift your mood.
- Follow a healthy diet. A diet that’s rich in fresh fruits and vegetables and low in added sugar and fat can help you feel better and maintain a healthy weight. Opt for fresh, whole foods rather than processed ones.
- Stay in touch. Meeting with friends, perhaps for exercise, can help relieve stress and keep you healthy.
- Avoid tobacco and limit alcohol. These add to overall health problems and may worsen inflammation.
Some people have also tried using natural therapies to treat hip arthritis. There’s some evidence that the following may help:
- cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- application of heat pads
- using topical ointments that warm the area, such as capsaicin
Alternatives to avoid
Some people use glucosamine, fish oil, vitamin D, or chondroitin sulfate supplements, but there’s not enough evidence to show that these are safe and effective.
If you opt for supplements, always talk to your healthcare provider first. Some supplements can produce adverse effects or interact with other medications.
The ACR/AF do not recommend the following for OA of the hip:
- manual therapy
- massage therapy
- transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
- stem cell therapy
There’s not enough evidence to show that these options will help.
Some healthcare providers offer botox or stem cell therapy for OA, but there’s no standard treatment for these options and not enough evidence to show they’re safe and effective. Experts advise against them.
A walking aid can take pressure off the hips and provide additional support to the joints. It can also reduce your risk for falling by helping you maintain stability and balance.
- a cane
- a walking frame
Tips for using a cane
When using a cane, remember the following tips:
- Ensure the cane isn’t too tall or short. You shouldn’t slump or slouch over when using a cane. 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, hold the cane with your left hand. When you step forward with your right leg, the cane will provide support. Practice moving your affected leg and the cane at the same time.
- Advance the cane an appropriate distance. Move the cane about 2 inches to the front or side of you. If it’s too far from your body, you might lose balance.
A physical therapist can help you develop a safe technique.
Your insurance company may cover the cost of these aids. Your healthcare provider can write a prescription for these mobility aids to help in the reimbursement process.
If exercise, weight loss, and lifestyle measures no longer work, or if OA is affecting your mobility or quality of life, your healthcare provider may recommend surgery.
- Hip resurfacing. The surgeon trims the damaged bone and cartilage and caps them with a metal shell, which makes an artificial surface.
- Total hip replacement. The surgeon replaces the socket and the head of the femur with an artificial joint.
Hip replacement surgery can improve your quality of life by:
- improving pain levels
- increasing mobility
- lowering the risk of complications, such as dislocation of the hip
A healthcare provider can help you understand the pros and cons of hip surgery and help you decide if this is a suitable option for you.
There’s no cure for OA of the hip, but there are ways to slow its progress and manage symptoms.
Lifestyle options include weight management, exercise, avoiding stress, and following a healthy diet.
Medical options include over-the-counter and prescription medications. If these options cannot help with pain levels and mobility issues, a healthcare provider may recommend surgery.
If you start to notice symptoms, such as pain and stiffness, speak to your healthcare provider. Starting treatment early can help improve your outlook, and it may eliminate the need for surgery.