Your Quick Guide to Understand Hip Arthritis

Arthritis of the hip is a common condition physical therapists see in the clinic. It is diagnosed most frequently in patients over 60 years of age and is caused by damage to the joint’s cartilage. Actually, this bone and cartilage relationship starts much earlier, in your 20s and 30s, but comes into focus only once the joint damage is defined by pain. Running, skiing, sitting – all these movements add up to your arthritic pain in the long run.

healthy hip joint with good cartilageLet’s start from the beginning. Your hip joint is covered by cartilage. Think of cartilage as the lubricant and your joint as the engine. This lubrication allows for smooth engine operation during activity. Over time, life’s movement patterns can pull your hip joint slightly out of alignment. This misalignment increases joint friction that leads to painful bone-on-bone contact you so often hear about.


arthritis with narrowing joint space, damage
Arthritis with narrowing joint space, decreased cartilage coverage


Arthritis progression

It is important to recognize that some arthritis is natural with aging. You accelerate the arthritic process by a combination of factors, and improper movement is a major contributor.

Healthy movement quality differentiates “pain free” and the “painful” individuals with arthritis.

We’ve come up with self-diagnosis standards to determine if you have hip arthritis. These will also help determine if you are a good candidate for physical therapy treatment:

1. You have moderate front or side hip pain during weight-bearing activities
2. You have morning hip stiffness for less than 1 hour
3. You have much less hip motion compared to the other side

New practice guidelines from the Journal of Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy suggests that exercising at your pain-free capacity reduces pain and increases physical function compared to doing no exercise at all. To refer to our earlier analogy, exercise and pain-free movement are the lubrication for your joint’s engine. Because arthritis attacks different portions of the hip joint, your physical

therapist can pinpoint which muscles initiate your hip pain. Whether it’s an infrequent twinge during yoga, or debilitating deep groin pain with stairs – your tailored plan of action will include manual hands-

on treatment along with specific exercises to best address your hip pain. Our goal at Heather Lane Physical Therapy is to enhance your life and get you back to full activity.

Krauß I, Steinhilber B, Haupt G, Miller R, Martus P, Janßen P. Exercise therapy in hip osteoarthritis: a randomized controlled trial. Dtsch Arztebl Int. 2014;111:592-599.

J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2017;47(6):A1-A37. doi:10.2519/jospt.2017.0301

The information provided on this site is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider.

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