Hip Arthritis: Everything You Need to Know
You might be suffering from arthritis and not even know it. Arthritis is known as a progressive disorder, which means it develops slowly and can be easily missed until it is pretty far along. “Progressive” means that it starts forming gradually and gets worse over time. At first, many people think they are just “sore” or “pushing themselves too hard” when in reality, they are in the early stages of arthritis.
Maybe you’re experiencing joint pain and think you might be developing arthritis. Or perhaps you’ve already been diagnosed with arthritis and are looking to further educate yourself on what you can do to help ease the pain and improve your quality of life.
No matter what phase of arthritis you’re in, this article aims to help you better understand your condition and give you the guidance you need to find your best level of health and wellness.
What Is Osteoarthritis?
What you might call “hip arthritis” has a medical term – hip osteoarthritis. In fact, osteoarthritis doesn’t just occur in the hip – it can affect various tissues and joints all over the body.
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease, which means that it gets worse over time. It affects the flexible tissue that creates a cushion, keeping bones from scraping against each other in the joint. Arthritis occurs when this tissue or protective cartilage wears down. This degeneration used to be thought as a “wear and tear”-type condition that was associated with people getting older. However, it’s now understood that it’s a disease of the entire joint, which includes ligaments, cartilage, bone, and the fat and tissues lining the joint (called the synovium).
The symptoms of arthritis include pain, stiffness, and inflammation around the joint, which makes it harder to get up and move around. While you may be suffering from pain in your hip at the moment, people often develop osteoarthritis in the knees, hands, lower back, and neck (among other places).
Hip arthritis specifically occurs when there is deterioration and erosion of the hip joint. Since the hip is a “ball-and-socket” joint, it needs the cartilage to act as a buffer between the “ball” and the “socket”. The top of the thigh bone (the femoral head) needs to be able to use this strong cartilage to glide smoothly within the hip socket (the acetabulum).
When the hip’s cartilage deteriorates enough, it becomes rough and the space between bones becomes more narrow. This is osteoarthritis of the hip. In cases of severe hip arthritis, the condition gets so bad that bone rubs directly on the pelvic bone within the hip socket – which can be extremely painful. Additionally, when the bone rubs on bone it can cause growths to form on the edges. This change in the shape of the bone is commonly known as bone spurs and is also very painful.
The Progression of Osteoarthritis
As we mentioned, osteoarthritis is a progressive, degenerative disease that has various stages.
If the lesions caused by osteoarthritis become significantly established, it becomes more and more difficult for the body to repair them. It’s also challenging for the body to heal these lesions the older a person gets.
The three clinical forms of cartilage loss are:
Slow and progressive: The deterioration typically happens slowly over several decades.
Intermediate: The deterioration has various periods – sometimes it evolves quickly, while other times there is very little deterioration or even no deterioration at all.
Rapid: This is quick deterioration relative to the other clinical forms of cartilage loss. It typically leads to the loss of cartilage within 12 to 24 months.
The main thing to remember is that osteoarthritis in the hip doesn’t evolve in a specific pattern, and is often not uniform. It can come and go in bouts. Sometimes certain x-rays look bad, but there is no noticeable pain. The reverse is also true: sometimes an x-ray will look totally healthy, but there is a great deal of osteoarthritic pain.
Hip Arthritis and Your Quality of Life
Hip pain from hip osteoarthritis is a very real thing for many adults. In fact, over 80% of adults who do suffer from hip arthritis find that it has a tangible affect on their quality of life overall. They struggle to do common activities like getting in and out of a vehicle, lifting things, navigating stairs, and even walking.
Do you feel like you’re suffering from a lower quality of life due to hip arthritis? Ask yourself if any of this sounds familiar:
You have difficulty sitting down and standing up without it being painful.
Your balance isn’t what it used to be, especially when you’re on surfaces that are uneven.
You struggle to carry things that aren’t heavy at all.
Does any of that ring true for you? If so, then your osteoarthritis is affecting your quality of life. Don’t be embarrassed – this isn’t your fault.
For some, they can struggle through some minimal pain, but run into issues when they want to do the things they love like play sports, do a bit of gardening, or be active with loved ones.
For others, their everyday tasks like using the restroom, bathing, doing laundry, and other household chores are sources of struggle and frustration. This can be a vicious spiral that drastically affects overall well-being and happiness.
If any of this sounds even remotely familiar, please know that you don’t have to deal with this attack on your quality of life alone. Consider this: your quality of life isn’t just being damaged because of your constant pain, but also because you feel the need to withdraw socially.
Strategies for Dealing with Hip Arthritis
The first step to dealing with hip arthritis is to have a formal consultation with an experienced orthopedic specialist. Remember, this is a progressive condition and you don’t want it to get worse. Some people think that if they go to see an orthopedic doctor they’re overreacting, and others think that seeing a specialist means an automatic referral for hip replacement surgery. Neither of these things are true. A consultation is just that; a chance to consult with an expert and talk about your diagnosis, symptoms, and treatment options.
Aside from seeing a specialist, there are some other key methods you can use to deal with hip arthritis. In fact, the sooner you begin some of these methods the better off you’ll be.
Some of the most popular methods of dealing with hip arthritis pain and improving wellness and independence are:
Pain Mitigation Strategies
Physical Therapy and Mobility Assistance
Hip Arthroplasty (Total hip replacement)
Let’s take a look at each one in a bit more depth.
Pain Mitigation Strategies
Methods for pain mitigation include things such as simply applying ice and heat, taking over-the-counter pain and anti-inflammatory medicine, or taking joint supplements like glucosamine. Additionally, improving your overall health with methods like quitting smoking and losing weight can also help ease some symptoms a great deal.
Physical Therapy and Mobility Assistance
In some cases, the use of assistive devices can help you correct your balance and reduce hip pain. For example, assistive devices like using a cane or walker can help increase your mobility and can reduce serious fall risk factors.
Additionally, if you’re able, you can exercise semi-regularly. The key here is to engage in light aerobic activities that are easy on your joints. Things like biking, walking, water aerobics, and swimming are great options.
A formal physical therapy routine as prescribed by professionals can also do wonders to help your hip pain. These routines improve your muscular strength, balance, and range of motion by strengthening your hip muscles.
We don’t recommend you attempt to come up with any sort of routine yourself or you risk overdoing it or hurting yourself even more. Listen to your body, and see a professional to get started.
Yes, in some cases the only lasting, meaningful solution is hip arthroplasty – also known as hip replacement surgery.
What is a hip replacement? More formally called hip arthroplasty, it is a surgery in which parts of your hip joint are replaced with artificial parts instead. Remember, the hip joint is made up of a ball and socket; this surgery sets out to replace one or both of those parts as needed.
The goal of a hip arthroplasty procedure is to get you back to a life of pain-free living and enjoying your daily activities again. A new artificial hip can give you the strength and mobility your hip arthritis was taking from you.
As mentioned previously, hip arthroplasty on your hip joint is not the first option, and we don’t rush to it quickly. However, if your condition becomes severe enough, it may be the best option for true pain relief.
When you find it difficult to do simple tasks, function normally without being in excruciating pain, and when all other treatment options (medicine and physical therapy) no longer have any effect (or their effects don’t last), it might be time to take a serious look at surgery.
Also, bear in mind that there are two different kinds of hip surgeries.
Total Hip Replacement: Also called a total hip arthroplasty, this is where both the ball and socket are replaced.
Partial Hip Replacement: Also called a partial hip arthroplasty, this is where only the ball is replaced (the head of your femur).
How Hip Arthritis Impacts You
If you’ve read through this article and any part of it sounds painfully familiar to you, it’s important to have a discussion with your doctor. Hip arthritis symptoms, pain, and other effects will only get worse over time so it’s critical to act quickly.
If left unchecked, hip arthritis can also have other negative effects on you. Consider that if your joints are constantly in pain you’re going to eventually move around and exercise less. This often leads to weight gain, lower energy levels, and decreased cardiovascular health.
Every person is different. You’ll have to work with your healthcare professional to see if surgery is right for you. Nowadays hip replacement surgery is safer, less intrusive, and more attainable than ever.
Getting a Referral to an Orthopedic Surgeon
Did you know that individuals can often easily get referrals to an expert orthopedist from their primary care physician? To make matters even better, were you aware that in many cases you can also refer yourself?
If you choose to refer yourself, it’s important to keep your primary care physician updated. Additionally, before any treatments occur, a formal consultation will be done with every patient regardless of their referral method.
Academy Orthopedics Is Here to Help with Your Hip Arthritis
You can drastically reduce the impact that hip arthritis has on you with the help of Academy Orthopedics. Our in-house experts are industry-leading orthopedic doctors – but that’s only the beginning.
Here at Academy Orthopedic, we strive to provide the best care possible for patients just like you. We specialize in hip osteoarthritis treatments of all kinds, no matter how severe the condition might be. We take the time to get to know your exact situation and build the ideal, customized care plan for all of our patients.
Our doctors are not quick to jump directly to surgical options if other care plans can bring you the health and wellness you deserve. We’re not some big, faceless medical conglomerate – we’re a small, physician-owned practice. Our doctors and support staff will treat you like family. We are proud to offer you the shorter wait times and longer face time with the doctors that you deserve as a patient.
Don’t continue to suffer through your hip osteoarthritis pain, let’s talk about how Academy Orthopedics can help you take the necessary steps toward the pain-free and improved quality of life you deserve. Call us now at 770-271-9857 or reach us online. We looking forward to hearing from you.