Is Hip Osteoarthritis
Keeping You Off Your Feet?

Hip osteoarthritis is a common cause of hip joint pain. When diagnosed with hip arthritis many fear they will need hip replacement surgery. Not necessarily so. If you are experiencing these osteoarthritis symptoms, there are things you can do to help yourself get back on your feet.

What is Hip Osteoarthritis?

Hip arthritis is the most common condition of the hip joint. Over time, the wear and tear of the hip joint begins to damage the protective cartilage of the joint, leading to inflammation.

hip osteoarthritis

Unfortunately, when people hear they have hip osteoarthritis, they fear they are destined to either having surgery or suffering chronic pain. Although there is not a “cure” for arthritis, much can be done to control hip arthritis pain.

Typical Hip Arthritis Symptoms

Osteoarthritis symptoms follow a typical pattern of pain and limitation. Hip arthritis is no different. The most common location of hip arthritis pain is the groin region/front of the hip. Often it will feel like a “pinch” sensation in the groin, especially when the hip is flexed (bent knee is brought up toward the chest).

Another common area of pain surprises people; it’s the medial or inside area of the knee. We call this a typical referred pain pattern for the hip. Many times people can experience no hip pain at all; rather the hip arthritis only causes the inside aspect of the knee to hurt.

Functionally, when people come to physical therapy with hip joint pain related to arthritis, they complain of the following problems: difficulty getting socks and shoes on/off, difficulty getting in/out of the car, and difficulty with moving from sitting to standing.

Of course walking, standing, and stair climbing are also often painful and difficult. And, at times, the walking pattern changes secondary to pain. If you do have a limp, most often it will feel like you are ‘waddling’ when you walk.

Typical Hip Arthritis Treatment

Osteoarthritis treatment of the hip is similar to many joint pain conditions. Treatment goals include first, reduce inflammation, second, restore range of motion, and third restore strength and function.

With osteoarthritis treatment, anti-inflammatory medications are often helpful in reducing joint inflammation (consult your doctor regarding medications). If conservative treatment is not effective, cortisone injections may be suggested.

Utilizing ice therapy (no heat!) can also be helpful to reduce pain and inflammation. When icing the hip, make sure you ice both the front and outside aspect of the joint. Apply ice for 10 to 15 minutes, a few times a day.

In addition, reducing stress on the hip joint can help to minimize pain. Weight reduction can be a key aspect to reducing joint stress. Although losing weight alone will not change the joint from being arthritic, decreasing stress on the joint will help to reduce pain.

Reducing joint stress can also be achieved through use of an assistive device such as a cane with walking. When using a cane, be sure to use the cane on the opposite side of the painful hip (example: left hip pain, use cane in right hand).

cane walking

Finally, good shoes can be extremely helpful in minimizing joint stress. Supportive shoes can help to absorb force and minimize extra forces directed to the hip. I often recommend a good pair of running shoes as the best way to help minimize ground reaction forces that can be passed on to the hip.

Physical Therapy Exercise

The goals of physical therapy exercises are to restore range of motion and improve muscle strength. If these goals are achieved the joint will be less painful and you’ll experience improved function. Hip joints become stiff in three main directions: flexion, rotation, and extension. Stretches, when done correctly and consistently, can help to restore normal mobility thus reducing abnormal joint stress and improving function.

In addition to stretches, repetitive motion of the hip joint, such as when riding a stationary bike, can be greatly beneficial in helping to restore mobility and help to lubricate the joint. A natural joint lubricant, called synovial fluid, is increase with the type of repetitive range of motion activity that is achieved with stationary biking. This simple activity can easily improve joint mobility and function.

With many arthritic conditions, water exercise may also be a means to provide exercise without stressing the joint.

Finally, muscles act like shock absorbers. Strengthening muscles around the hip will help to reduce the force directed to the joint, resulting in a reduction of pain. Even if you do water exercise or other forms of exercise, do not skip isolated hip strengthening.

The following is a link to a physical therapy exercise program for improving the ROM and strength for hip osteoarthritis: hip osteoarthritis exercises.


• Hip arthritis pain can occur in either the groin region or the inside aspect of the knee.

• Pain is generally aggravated with weight bearing activity (walking/stairs) and flexing the hip.

• Medication, ice, weight loss, good shoes, and the use of a cane can all help to reduce hip pain and inflammation.

• Perform range of motion and strengthening exercises to minimize pain and improve hip function: hip osteoarthritis exercises.

• A stationary bike or water exercise can go a long way in improving hip function.

Arthritis symptoms related to Hip Osteoarthritis cannot be cured. But, by following the above osteoarthritis treatment recommendations, you can be on your way to less pain and improved function.

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