What is hip osteoarthritis?

In hip osteoarthritis, the cartilage of the hip gradually wears away, becoming rough and damaged. As cartilage disappears, the leg and hip bones rub directly on each other and become damaged. The damaged bones may even change shape and cause bone spurs. All of this can cause pain, stiffness, decreased range of motion, and difficulty in daily tasks like bending over or walking.

Despite recent advances in medical therapies, there is no cure for osteoarthritis. If you seek help early, you can help to reduce its impact on your life. There are many treatments for arthritis that do not involve surgery.


Symptoms usually appear gradually, although it is also possible that you may develop symptoms over just a few months. The most common symptom is groin pain and stiffness. You may feel these after sitting or resting for a while in the same position. Other symptoms include:

Pain that worsens with exercise & activity

Stiffness in the hips

Pain in the hip that may radiate to the knees

Decreased range of motion

Limping caused by pain or stiffness

Increased joint pain during weather changes

“Locking” or “grinding” feeling in the hip joint

When to See a Doctor

If you notice pain in your hip or other symptoms of osteoarthritis, talk to your healthcare provider for a diagnosis. If you have osteoarthritis of the hip, treating it quickly can help slow down its progression so you will be more comfortable for longer.


It is common for the hip joint to experience wear and tear as you get older. The cause of arthritis is usually a combination of the following factors:

  • Joint injury. This may result from repeated movements or damage during sports.
  • Joint overuse. For example, putting too much stress on the hip joint could be related to a job that requires heavy lifting, bending a lot, or standing for long periods.
  • Increasing age. Wear and tear on joints builds up over the years.
  • Being overweight. Extra weight puts added pressure on your hips and can break down cartilage faster.
  • Genetics. The shape and development of your hip joint may predispose you to problems

Diagnosis & Tests

Not all hip pain comes from the hip joint. Hip bursitis and referred pain from low back problems often present as a hip problem. Your healthcare provider will ask about your medical history, including your activity level. They will ask about your symptoms and do a physical examination to look for:

  • Range of motion for your leg
  • Pain in the hip from specific movements
  • Problems with the way you walk
  • A grating sound or sensation within the joint, called crepitus
  • Any injury to the tendons, ligaments, and muscles around the hip

Your healthcare provider may also want to do imaging tests to better examine the hip joint. An x-ray can show if the joint space is normal or has narrowed due to osteoarthritis, if the bones have changed, or if there are any bone spurs. If the problem cannot be diagnosed with simple x-rays, an MRI is occasionally necessary to further diagnose the problem.


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