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Osteoarthritis of the hip

What is osteoarthritis of the hip?

OA is an common inflammatory condition that affects joints causing pain and loss of function.

Your hips, like other joints, are constantly undergoing a remodelling and repair process from the everyday stresses that are placed upon them. The majority of the time these process will go on unnoticed and you will not experience any symptoms.  At times the level of the repair occurring in the hip maybe greater than usual and you may experience pain, swelling and heat in and around the joint. This is sometimes known as a flare up which can last from around 8-24 weeks

What are the symptoms?

Typically the symptoms are:

  • Commonly felt in the groin, front of the thigh, knee, lower back or buttock.
  • This is typically felt after periods of rest, such as first thing in the morning and tends to improve within 30 minutes. You may also finds that tasks such as putting on shoes and getting out of cars are harder to do.
  • Unstable leg- at times you may feel that the leg gives way

The severity of osteoarthritis symptoms can vary greatly from person to person and can change with time.

What are the causes?

People often think that OA is mainly related to age, but this is not correct and there are many other factors that can contribute to OA, such as:

  • Being over weight
  • Previous injury or surgery to the hip
  • Being female
  • Aged over 50
  • Smoking
  • Having a history of gout or Rheumatoid arthritis in the joint
  • Having a family history

What can I do to help myself?

  • Try to lose weight if you are overweight. Losing even a small amount of weight can reduce the strain on the joint.
  • Use painkillers. They will reduce your pain, allowing you to remain active. National guidelines recommend trying paracetamol and an Anti-Inflammatory gel to begin with. If you are not sure if you can use these or they don’t seem to be working, speak to your GP.
  • Try to spread your physical activities evenly over the day and week, rather than in big chunks.
  • Stop smoking
  • Try placing pillows between or under your knees whilst in bed.
  • Do some regular strengthening and mobility exercises. See below for some suggestions;

Easy OA hip exercises

Moderate OA hip exercises

Advanced OA hip exercises

  • Self-refer yourself to see a physiotherapist if you are still struggling after trying the above advice.

What will physiotherapy do?

A physiotherapist with take a thorough history of your symptoms and will conduct a physical examination of the area to confirm the diagnosis.

The main aim of physiotherapy is to restore strength and function to the hip. Treatment will be based on active rehabilitation, focusing on strength and flexibility.

Your physiotherapist will create an individual exercise programme to address your individual needs. 

You may be given the option to attend an exercise class.

Corticosteroid injections can be helpful for pain management but will not resolve the underlying cause of the problem. They should only be used after everything else has been tried. This can be discussed with your GP or physiotherapist. Due to the current coronavirus pandemic we will not be offering injection until further notice.

Acupuncture, electrotherapy and massage have not been shown to be helpful for hip OA and therefore are not offered.

Symptoms to check

Click the plus sign to see a list of problems that could be a sign you may need to be checked urgently

Get advice now from 111 if:

  • The hip pain was caused by a serious fall or accident 
  • Your leg is deformed, badly bruised or bleeding
  • You are unable to move your hip or bear any weight on your leg
  • You have numbness or tingling around your genitals or buttocks
  • You have a change to your bladder and bowel control or difficulty peeing
  • You have a raised temperature and you feel unwell
  • You have a fever or a rash
  • Your hip pain came on very suddenly and you have sickle cell anaemia

These problems could be a sign of something more serious and may need to be checked urgently 

Immediate medical advice is available by contacting NHS 111

Exercises & Resources area

Exercises & Resources

If you have already received a diagnosis from a medical professional you may find the following links helpful:

Referral Information

If your hip pain persists or you are not sure what to do, you can self-refer to see a local physiotherapist who can help you with your problem.