Hip Osteoarthritis
Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Some Facts


Hip osteoarthritis accounted for 94% of the 60,000 primary hip replacements carried out in England and Wales during 2006/07.

It is the most common non-traumatic disorder of the hip joint in middle age and after.

The Arthritis Research Council tells us that 650,000 people in the UK have painful osteoarthritis in one or both hip joints.

A further 1.5 million have radiological evidence of osteoarthritis but may not have symptoms.

What is Hip Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative arthritis, is caused by the wearing away and eventual loss of cartilage in a joint. Cartilage is a firm, pliable material that covers the ends of bones. Its purpose is to cushion any impact on the bones and to prevent them rubbing directly on each other - bone-on-bone.

Causes and Risks


There is no agreement as to the cause or causes of osteoarthritis in general, let alone hip osteoarthritis in particular.  Some researchers suggest it is a disease of the cartilage itself whereas other argue it is the failure of cartilage to deal with adverse changes. A third possibility is that the condition is hereditary and that the gene responsible for making cartilage is defective. Finally, it has been argued, that the synovial fluid and joint capsule may play a role.

Osteoarthritis may also be caused by an underlying disease such as: -

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Avascular necrosis
  • Paget's diseas

UK scientist have demonstrated a link between the amount of allium vegetables (garlic, onion and leeks) and osteoarthritis. They have identified a compound called diallyl disulphide which appears to limit the effect of cartilage damaging enzymes.


  • Trauma - any significant injury to a joint may increase the risk of developing osteoarthritis later in life.
  • Overuse - athletes and people who work in jobs which require repeated, load-bearing use of a joint are at increased risk.
  • Obesity is an established risk factor and losing weight may well decrease the rate of wear on the cartilage.

Symptoms of Hip Osteoarthritis

Symptoms will vary with each patient. Some of the most common are: -

  • Pain this may be continuous or only occur when you use the joint. The intensity of the pain can vary from mild to severe but is usually located in the groin or the front or side of the thigh. Typically it appears after prolong activity but as the disease progresses it may become constant and may disturb sleep.
  • Stiffness - normally first thing in the morning or after sitting still in one position for any length of time.
  • Problems moving - particularly reaching up to high shelves or down to low cupboards. Putting on shoes and climbing stairs. This does not wear off with use.
  • Limping - this usually starts early on in the disease and may lead to a feeling that one leg is getting shorter.


There is no simple blood test for osteoarthritis so your GP will first be guided by the symptoms you present and the presence of any bony enlargements or spur formations.

Blood tests along with arthrocentesis (removal of joint fluid for testing) may be performed to exclude other diagnoses.

An X-ray of the affected joint will greatly help diagnosis. If osteoarthritis is present then the X-ray will probably show loss of joint cartilage and therefore narrowing of the joint space between the bones and bone spur formation.

Further information about Osteoarthritis can be found at Arthritis Action

Learn more about:

Alternatives to Hip Replacement Surgery.
The Best Time for Hip Replacement Surgery

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