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Common questions about hip pain

Published in Orthopedics, Senior Services Author: Andrew Mulder,MD Author: Andrew A. Mulder, MD

I have a lot of people tell me that their hip hurts. I tell them that more than likely it’s arthritis.

Arthritis is most common cause of disability in the United States. It affects more than 53 million Americans. Arthritis costs more than limiting your activities. The total costs associated with arthritis are more than $128 billion per year, which includes the cost for hospitals, nursing homes, medications and lost work productivity.

What is arthritis?
It’s a chronic condition in which the cushioning material of the joints, called cartilage, breaks down causing the bones to rub against each other. This causes pain, stiffness and loss of joint movement. While the cause is not fully understood, there are three types of arthritis:

  • Post-traumatic arthritis resulting from an injury
  • Rheumatoid/inflammatory arthritis, where the body is reacting to itself
  • Osteoarthritis, which is caused by wear and tear, is the most common

What are the symptoms of arthritis of the hip?
Symptoms are often worse in the morning or when the weather changes. You may experience:

  • Pain and aching in groin, buttocks and thighs
  • Difficulty walking (limping)
  • Trouble putting on shoes and socks

What puts you at risk for arthritis?

  • Genetics. Does it run in your family?
  • Being overweight. Extra weight puts stress on your joints, which increases wear and tear.
  • Injury. Factors can include doing repetitive motion at work, sports injuries, falls or motor vehicle accidents.
  • Age. The Arthritis Foundation says 50 percent of people older than 65 have arthritis.

How is arthritis diagnosed?

  • History and clinical examination by a health care provider
  • X-ray or other imaging procedures
  • Blood tests to measure the level of inflammation in the body

How do we treat arthritis?
Surgery is the last resort. First you should try:

  • Weight loss. Control your weight and avoid types of activities that are more likely to cause stress on the joints.
  • Exercise. Enjoy physical activity such as walking, biking and swimming to decreases pain and improves function and quality of life.
  • Medications. Talk to your health care provider about what type of medication might work best for you.
  • Injections. Talk to your health care provider about what type of injection might work best for you.

Am I ready for surgery?
If you have been considering hip surgery, ask yourself these questions:

  • Can I live with the pain I have now?
  • Have I quit activities I enjoy because of pain?
  • Have I tried non-operative treatments?
  • How will surgery improve my condition?
  • Is my overall health good enough for surgery? Has my health care provider given me the OK? Have I been to the dentist recently? Have I completed a Health Care Directive?
  • Do I have a plan for my work? Do I have time off available? Can I work with some restrictions during my recovery?
  • Do I have a support system in place? You will need help at home during your recovery.