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Common Symptoms of Hip Joint Arthritis

updated by Cory Calendine, MD, Orthopaedic Surgeon, Hip and Knee Specialist

Hip arthritis can cause pain and mobility problems, but treatments are available that can restore quality of life. Because hip arthritis can present with symptoms other than pain in the hip, I frequently see patients who have had arthritis for a long time and do not recognize it. The goal of correctly diagnosing hip arthritis early is to prevent severe damage to the joint and improve daily function.

hip anatomy diagram
The hip is the largest ball-and-socket joint of the human body.

The hip is a ball-and-socket joint covered by a slippery surface referred to as articular cartilage. Cartilage creates a smooth surface that helps with joint movement with minimal friction. Arthritis is the “wearing-away” of the cartilage surface and can cause joint pain and stiffness. Although arthritis commonly occurs in both in most patients, one hip joint symptoms are worse than the other.

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Top 8 Symptoms of Hip Arthritis

Hip arthritis often presents in patients as intermittent pain and difficulty completing certain basic daily activities like putting on socks or getting out of bed. People with hip arthritis tend to experience progressively worsening joint pain and decreased hip joint range of motion.

Although some patients deal with symptoms for several years before seeking medical attention, hip arthritis can have a rapid onset and cause loss of range of motion of the hips rather quickly. I have seen some patients progress from seeing no signs of hip arthritis to needing a joint replacement in less than 24 months time.

Hip arthritis can present as pain in areas other than just the hip region.

While localized pain in the hip region is a common symptom of hip joint arthritis, it is important to understand other symptoms that may be a warning sign of worsening hip arthritis. Additional or alternative symptoms of hip arthritis can include:

  • Pain in the groin or thigh that radiates to the knee, outer thigh or buttocks
  • Pain that is worse in the morning or after sitting for an extended time
  • Hip pain triggered by vigorous activity
  • Limping increased difficulty walking
  • Sticking or locking of the hip joint
  • Difficulty getting out of a car, up from the ground or other low position
  • Pain when leaning forward
  • Grinding joint sensation/noises with movement

A patient with hip arthritis can typically expect to experience worsening pain over time. Joint symptoms often begin as mild and intermittent and progressively occur with more frequency and severity.

Early and Correct Diagnosis is Important

Effect joint arthritis treatment starts with correct diagnosis as early in the disease process as possible. Patients experiencing any of the symptoms listed above on a regular or frequent basis should consider evaluation by a qualified medical provider. During an initial medical appointment, your medical provider will discuss your symptoms and medical history, conduct a physical examination, and possibly order diagnostic tests, such as x-rays.

Xrays are often used by physicians to help diagnose hip arthritis

Initial Medical Examination

During the physical examination, your doctor will look for:

  • Tenderness around the hip, back, groin or additional joints
  • Range of passive (assisted) and active (self-directed) motion
  • Crepitus (a grating sensation inside the joint) with movement
  • Pain when pressure is placed on the hip
  • Problems with your gait (the way you walk)
  • Any signs of injury to the muscles, tendons, and ligaments surrounding the hip

Imaging Tests for Hip Joint Pain

X-rays. are the most common imaging tests ordered initially for complaints of joint pain. Xrays provide detailed pictures of dense structures, such as bones. X-rays of an arthritic hip may show a narrowing of the joint space, changes in the bone, and the formation of bone spurs (osteophytes).

Other imaging tests less commonly ordered for joint pain symptoms include magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans or computerized tomography (CT) scans. CT and MRI provide a more detailed image of the joint and are sometimes needed to better determine the condition of the bone and soft tissues of your hip.

From injections to joint replacement, there are many treatments available for hip arthritis that can restore function and quality of life

Hip Arthritis is Often More Than Hip Pain

Arthritis changes of the hip joint can produce pain in areas other than just the hip (groin, thigh, knee). If you have experienced joint pain that is progressive and/or associated limited range of motion and function, early and correct diagnosis is important to prevent possible progressive joint damage. Contact our office if it's time to discuss the full range of treatment options available for hip arthritis.

RELATED VIDEO: What Is Arthritis? Cory Calendine, MD, Orthopaedic Surgeon

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Cory Calendine, MD is an Orthopaedic Surgeon and founding partner of the Bone and Joint Institute of Tennessee at Williamson County Hospital in Franklin, TN. Dr. Calendine is an expert in Joint Replacement, specializing in Hip and Knee Surgery. From diagnosis through treatment, the Orthopaedic Surgical experts at the Bone and Joint Institute use the latest techniques and technology to improve care for people with musculoskeletal problems. For more information, please contact our office or schedule your appointment today.  
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