Do I have Hip Arthritis? The Two Main Symptoms to Know

Orthopaedic & Spine Center
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John D. Burrow, DO

As a fellowship-trained Orthopaedic specialist, I spent years in medical school learning how to diagnose musculoskeletal conditions.  Some issues are easily diagnosed with x-rays and a physical exam, and others require some detective work on my part.  Hip arthritis is one of those diagnoses where the symptoms can be misleading.

  1. Pain – This is the number one reason that causes patients to seek medical care.  The pain can be sharp and stabbing, burning or a dull ache.  It can come and go or be constant and is often much worse at night.  Making an immediate diagnosis of hip arthritis is tricky, because the pain from this condition can present in the hip, groin, back, buttocks, thigh or knee.  Often times, I have to rule out spine or knee problems first and do this by getting x-rays of the spine, knee and hip.  If the spine x-rays look normal, we can deduce that the spine is not the root of the problem.  The same goes for the knee.  The hip images may show me a loss of cartilage in the hip joint, bone abnormalities and other indicators of arthritis.
  2. Difficulty walking or doing daily activities – When a patient complains of stiffness and pain near the hip and that they struggle to walk, stand, bend, get out of a chair, in and out of the car or bed, these symptoms help me to make a diagnosis of hip arthritis.   During the physical exam, I will ask you to walk, bend, sit and stand and observe your movements to see if you are limping or have other gait abnormalities.  I will also ask you to demonstrate your ability to move your hip in certain ways.  If your range of motion is limited, that could also indicate degeneration of the hip joint.

Once we have ruled out other causes and have evidence of the presence of hip arthritis, we can begin a treatment regimen designed specifically for your lifestyle, activities and the type of work that you perform.  I may prescribe Physical Therapy and oral anti-inflammatory medications to start. Injections of steroid medications into the hip joint often helps to relieve more severe symptoms.  If the arthritis is severe and symptoms persist or worsen, a hip replacement surgery will be recommended.