What is osteoarthritis and stages of it?

A healthy hip has linings of cartilage and lubricating joint fluid (synovial fluid) to protect and cushion between the pelvic and thigh bones, allowing pain-free hip movements.

However, in osteoarthritis, the cartilage lining gradually wears out, and the synovial fluid loses its shock-absorbing qualities, producing symptoms of osteoarthritis.

How does it feel? Where does it hurt?

Hip pain can be felt deep at the front of the groin. You may also feel pain at the side and front of the thigh, in the buttock or down to the knee (referred pain). There can also be stiffness in the hip joint and limitation of your normal range of movement. Stiffness tends to be worse in the morning, but gets better with activity and as the day progresses.

What can you not do?

High impact activities such as running or jumping.

When to seek immediate medical attention

Seek medical attention if you have constant hip pain, hip pain that wakes you up at night from sleep, or pain associated with fever, loss of weight or appetite.

What can you do?

A healthy and active lifestyle will help maintain strong muscles around the hip joint to stabilize the joint and will help maintain joint mobility. Symptoms are more likely to get worse in sedentary and overweight individuals due to muscle wasting and the extra weight on the hip joint.

Recommend low impact exercises for maintaining cardiovascular fitness, for example swimming, walking, and cycling. Weight control is important in those who are obese or overweight. Using a walking stick, or wearing shoes with shock-absorbing soles can also help take the pressure off your hip joint.

What can we do to help you?

Your doctor will take a history, perform a physical examination and send you for X-rays to evaluate for signs of osteoarthritis such as bone spurs or wearing out of the joint. Your doctor may prescribe an exercise program for you, advise on weight management, prescribe anti-inflammatory or pain medications, prescribe glucosamine supplements, or refer you to a physiotherapist to learn range of motion, stretching and strengthening exercises.

Other tests such as a MRI scan may be necessary if there is concern that your hip pain may be due to other conditions or if surgery is considered.