Hip doctors are familiar with osteoarthritis, as it is the most common type of arthritis in the United States. Pain, decreased range of motion, and stiffness in one or both hips are common symptoms that lead patients to seek advice from a doctor. It is also important for patients to understand the signs, symptoms, reasons, and risks behind this common condition, as well as when to seek medical advice for treatment or to rule out other underlying diseases or syndromes.
Joint Biology 101
The femur, also known as the thigh bone, has a ball at the top called the femoral head. This ball fits into a socket in the pelvis called the acetabulum, and this juncture is commonly known as the hip. The femoral head and the acetabulum are held together by ligaments, cartilage, and tissue, which also form a joint capsule. Synovium, a membrane inside the hips, produces fluid to allow smooth movement. Bursae are little sacks of fluid that reduce friction and cushion for support. When the linings and cartilage break down, they become rough, and eventually the ball begins to rub directly against the socket. Osteoarthritis, sometimes called degenerative joint disease, is the result of this process.
There are risks that can increase the chances of developing this condition. Unfortunately, some of the risks are based on unavoidable factors such as genetics, age, or gender. Understanding the notable risk factors and how they apply to the individual is helpful in determining how likely someone is to develop a problem.
– Weight: Being overweight places excess strain on the hips.
– Sports and injuries: High-impact activities or injuries to joints increase the chances of developing problems.
– Gender: Women are at higher risk than men.
– Age: While degeneration can happen at any age, patients are more likely to have issues with wear-and-tear at 50+ years old.
– Genetics and illness: Certain genetic disorders, illnesses, or congenital conditions are contributing factors.
– Exercise level: Healthy exercise, such as walking or swimming, decreases risk.
Most patients who have osteoarthritis report pain. Pain usually appears in the thigh and groin and gets worse with some activities. Limited flexibility or range of motion is a common problem, making it difficult to move the leg to put on a sock, tie a shoe, or bend over. A common symptom is a stiffness upon waking or after a period of inactivity for 30 minutes or more. Some sufferers feel a crunching or grating sensation in the joint with movement or develop bone spurs, which feel like hard lumps under the skin and muscle near the femoral head. This condition usually comes on slowly and worsens over time. Seeking help from a physician at the onset of early symptoms is best for treatment prognosis and lessens the daily impact on life.
Surgeries such as arthroscopy or joint replacement are available when more conservative therapies don’t help an individual, but surgery is not the first line of defense for those with arthritis. Physical therapy, diet, warm compresses, lifestyle modifications, anti-inflammatory medications, injections, or combinations of these are common effective treatments.
Hip doctors can perform tests to be sure that the pain is indeed from osteoarthritis and not a separate underlying condition. Once a diagnosis is confirmed, patients with osteoarthritis can focus on improving the quality of life through working with the physician for the best outcome.