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What Is Hip Arthritis?

Arthritis of the hip is a common cause of hip pain, especially in older adults. While there are more than 100 types of arthritis, osteoarthritis of the hip is the most common. In osteoarthritis of the hip, the cartilage of the hip wears down. This loss of cushioning results in bone-on-bone contact and can be very painful.

Osteoarthritis can involve any joint, often weight-bearing ones such as the hip and the knee. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), osteoarthritis impacts more than 30 million Americans.

Inflammatory arthritis can also involve the hip and usually comes in one of three forms: rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis or systemic lupus erythematosus. In rheumatoid arthritis, the lubricating tissue in the hip, called the synovium, thickens and becomes inflamed. Ankylosing spondylitis is chronic inflammation that usually affects the spine but can also affect the hip. Systemic lupus erythematosus also causes inflammation, and it may cause the death of bone cells, a condition known as osteonecrosis.

Causes and Risk Factors

There are a number of risk factors for hip osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis. These include:

  • Advancing age
  • Congenital deformities of the hip
  • Family history of osteoarthritis
  • Injury to the hip
  • Obesity

The cause of inflammatory arthritis is unknown, but researchers suspect that there is a genetic component.


Pain is the most common symptom of hip arthritis, no matter its source. The pain is usually felt in the groin or thigh, and it may radiate to the buttocks or down to the knee. It is often worse after activity, in the morning or after sitting for a long period.

Osteoarthritis can cause a locking sensation and a grinding noise, while inflammatory arthritis may come with general symptoms of inflammation such as fever and fatigue.


The doctor will first ask about family history, then look for the presence of symptoms. Imaging and blood tests can help narrow down which type of arthritis is causing the pain. X-rays can show changes in bone structure or the presence of bone spurs, while blood tests can detect chemicals that are associated with inflammation.


There is no cure for arthritis, but its symptoms can be managed. Conservative, nonsurgical management methods include:

There are also a number of surgeries that can help, such as total hip replacement, hip resurfacing and synovectomy. A total hip replacement includes hip resurfacing and also replacing the head of the thighbone, which fits into the socket. In hip resurfacing, damaged bone and cartilage in the hip socket is replaced with a metal shell. A synovectomy, which can be helpful for inflammatory arthritis, involves removing the excess growth of the synovium.

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