Kellie K. Middleton, MD

What Is Hip Osteoarthritis?

Sep 22, 2022
What Is Hip Osteoarthritis?
Many of us know that our hips are prone to weakening as we get older, but few people are aware of the risks resulting from deterioration of the joints and tissue in this part of the body...

Many of us know that our hips are prone to weakening as we get older, but few people are aware of the risks resulting from deterioration of the joints and tissue in this part of the body.

Osteoarthritis is a disease that causes moderate to severe disability in 43 million people worldwide. Hip osteoarthritis in particular is an extremely common yet debilitating form of arthritis, and it’s important to understand what it is and how it can affect your life. If you are wondering “what is hip arthritis?” or “where is hip arthritis pain felt?” keep reading for more information.

Hip Osteoarthritis (Degenerative Arthritis of the Hip)

Hip osteoarthritis (hip arthritis) is a form of arthritis that occurs in the hips due to injury and inflammation. Both things can cause the cartilage tissue around the hip joints to begin breaking down, which in turn leads to pain, swelling, and in some cases, deformity.

The joint of the hips is a ball and socket that connect the thigh bone (femoral head) to the groin. However, the ball and socket are separated by the aforementioned cartilage, which allows the ball and socket to rotate smoothly.

Hip Osteoarthritis

When this cartilage is thinned and damaged by injury or inflammation, the spaces between those bones become smaller and create friction and even bone spurs. Bone spurs are bony projections that can grow on the edge of the bones, causing their shape to change over time.

Over time this wear and tear can cause significant pain, swelling, and stiffness that limit the range of motion in the hips and legs. It can make basic activities such as walking and bending very difficult.


The direct causes of hip osteoarthritis are as of yet unknown. However, there are a variety of factors that may make it more likely to develop. These include:

  • Advanced age
  • Weight
  • Family history of osteoarthritis
  • Prior hip injuries
  • Developmental dysplasia of the hip, which stops the hip joint from forming properly


There are various symptoms of hip osteoarthritis, most of which start off mild and gradually worsen over time. These include:

  • Pain in the hips, groin, and thigh – can spread to the buttocks and even as far down as the knees.
  • Swelling and/or tenderness in the hip joint
  • Stiffness in the hip joints, particularly after getting out of bed or long periods of sitting. This stiffness can result in difficulty walking, sitting, or bending.


Image Source

  • Decreased range of motion in the hips
  • Crepitus (the sound of bones and cartilage grinding against each other), is accompanied by the sensation of the hip joint “locking” or “sticking.”
  • Flaring joint pain during rainy weather


There are a number of steps your doctor will take before providing a diagnosis. First, they will ask a number of questions about your condition, potential symptoms, and medical history. They will then carry out a physical exam and may also run some diagnostic tests.

A physical exam for a possible hip osteoarthritis diagnosis will typically include testing your:

  • Range of motion
  • Pain and tenderness around your hips
  • Signs of injury
  • Crepitus during movement
  • Further issues while walking

If hip osteoarthritis seems likely, they will then order x-rays to observe any thinning between the joint space and any changes in bone and bone spur formation. They may also order an MRI or CT scan to check the condition of the bone and soft tissue.


There is no known cure for hip osteoarthritis, but there are options for treatment. These will be used to help improve mobility in the hips and relieve associated pain.

Non-surgical Treatment

Early non-surgical options include physical therapy to help extend your range of motion and increase muscle strength and flexibility via a customized hip arthritis exercise plan.

Non-surgical Treatment

Image Source

Medication including acetaminophen, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and corticosteroids can help to manage pain and reduce inflammation.

Lifestyle changes such as low-impact exercise and weight loss can reduce strain on your joints and lessen the advancement of osteoarthritis.

Assistive devices such as a cane or crutches help with mobility and reduce movements that can cause pain.

Surgical Treatment

If hip osteoarthritis is becoming increasingly difficult to manage and has a debilitating effect on your life that can’t be improved via non-surgical means, there are several surgical options that may help.

Hip Resurfacing

During this procedure, the damaged bone and cartilage are surgically removed and replaced with a metal shell while preserving the femur, which is in turn covered with a metal cap.

Total Hip Replacement (arthroplasty)

The hip socket and the head of the femur are removed during arthroplasty surgery and replaced with artificial implants made from a combination of metal, plastic, and ceramic.


The rarest of surgical treatments for osteoarthritis, an osteotomy involves cutting down or shaving the thigh bone in order to realign the joint and relieve pressure.

In the past 2 decades, hip replacement surgeries have more than doubled in the US. If you are at risk of hip injury or are dealing with the symptoms of hip osteoarthritis, it’s important to take action early.

The team at Kellie Middleton MD can help. Our Atlanta-based practice specializes in orthopedic surgery for sports-related injuries, as well as pain management and physical therapy. Call us at 770-509-4030 or send an email to to book your first appointment today.