How Arthritis Impacts Your Hips

How Arthritis Impacts Your Hips

Your hip joint includes the upper end of your thigh bone, called the femoral head, and your hip socket, called the acetabulum. The cartilage that covers the ends of your bones creates a buffer to allow the femoral head and hip socket to glide smoothly against each other where they meet. 

Hip arthritis causes the cartilage to wear down, leaving the ends of the two bones in the hip joint unprotected. The friction of bone on bone can cause pain, stiffness, and inflammation. 

A dull, aching pain in your outer thigh, groin, buttocks, or knee can also occur. Pain may lessen with activity and worsen after resting or sleeping. 

As the bones rub together without the protection of cartilage, this can cause debilitating pain and eventual deterioration of the hip bone. In this blog, orthopedic surgeon Robert Douglas Bostick III, MD, of Metairie Orthopedics & Sports Medicine in Metairie, Louisiana, discusses how different types of arthritis can impact your hips and the treatment options that can help reduce symptoms.


Osteoarthritis, the most common form of hip arthritis, is a degenerative joint disease that worsens over time. There’s  a 25% lifetime risk of developing this “wear-and-tear” form of arthritis. The condition usually affects people aged 60 and older. 

Being overweight, ignoring the need for regular exercise, and having previous hip injuries can help osteoarthritis progress faster in your hips. Genetics, which can affect the anatomic structure of your hip joints, can also make you more vulnerable to osteoarthritis and help it worsen faster.

Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes your body’s immune system to attack healthy tissue in your joints. When rheumatoid arthritis attacks your hips, it thickens the thin lining that covers the joint and destroys the cartilage covering the bone. 

While rheumatoid arthritis typically affects joints of the wrists and hands, it can also impact larger joints, including the hips, shoulders, and knees. The condition often affects the same joint symmetrically, so both hips can be damaged at the same time. 

While the cause of rheumatoid arthritis is not known, genetics, hormones, and environmental factors may contribute to its onset and progression. Rheumatoid arthritis of the hip affects up to 28% of people who have rheumatoid arthritis

Ankylosing spondylitis

Ankylosing spondylitis is a chronic, inflammatory type of arthritis that affects the spine. Over time, the disease can cause the fusing of some vertebrae in your spine. As a result, your spine can become rigid and limit your posture to a hunched-over position. 

Early symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis typically begin between ages 20-30, with pain in your lower back and hips. Other symptoms can include fatigue, neck pain, spinal stiffness/reduced range of motion, and headaches.

Ankylosing spondylitis is thought to be hereditary, though environmental factors may also contribute to its onset.

Systemic lupus erythematosus

About 70% of the people who have lupus have systemic lupus erythematosus. This chronic autoimmune disease can cause pain and inflammation in any part of the body, including the hip joints, as it attacks healthy tissue instead of fighting infection. 

People with systemic lupus erythematosus are more likely to develop osteonecrosis of the hip, which can kill bone cells, resulting in weakened bone structures and debilitating arthritis. Young adult women have the highest risk of developing lupus, though there is also a genetic component. 

Treatments for hip arthritis

When arthritis impacts your hips, there are several ways to manage pain and improve mobility. Depending on certain factors, such as your age, overall health, disease progression, and type of arthritis, you may benefit from nonsurgical treatment, surgical treatment, or a combination of both. 

Nonsurgical treatments

These nonsurgical treatments can often reduce pain and inflammation enough to improve your ability to participate in daily activities:

Surgical treatment

When you’ve exhausted nonsurgical treatments without achieving success, it may be time to discuss options for surgical intervention. Many people who have hip arthritis achieve pain relief and improved quality of life with a total hip replacement. 

Hip replacement surgery removes the damaged acetabulum and femoral head and replaces them with artificial or plastic components, which can last up to 20 years or longer. The procedure is among the most common elective surgeries in the United States, with about 400,000 hip replacements performed annually.

To learn more about the way arthritis may be impacting your hips, book an appointment online or over the phone with Metairie Orthopedics & Sports Medicine today.

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