Many kinds of arthritis can affect the hip joint but by far the most common is osteoarthritis which some people call “degenerative joint disease.”
This occurs when the joint surface cartilage (also called hyaline cartilage or articular cartilage) becomes worn away leaving the raw bone beneath exposed. The cartilage normally serves as a “pad” or a bearing in the joint and under normal conditions the cartilage bearing is even slicker than a hockey puck on ice. When the bearing wears away, the result is a roughed joint surface that causes the pain and stiffness that people associate with osteoarthritis.
Factors that may contribute include joint injury, increasing age, and being overweight.
In addition, osteoarthritis can sometimes be caused by other factors:
- The joints may not have formed properly.
- There may be genetic (inherited) defects in the cartilage.
- The person may be putting extra stress on his or her joints, either by being overweight or through activities that involve the hip.
Your first sign may be a bit of discomfort and stiffness in your groin, buttock, or thigh when you wake up in the morning. The pain flares when you are active and gets better when you rest.
If you do not get treatment for osteoarthritis of the hip, the condition keeps getting worse until resting no longer relieves your pain. The hip joint gets stiff and inflamed. Bone spurs might build up at the edges of the joint.
When the cartilage wears away completely, bones rub directly against each other. This makes it very painful for you to move. You may lose the ability to rotate, flex or extend your hip. If you become less active to avoid the pain the muscles controlling your joint get weak, and you may start to limp.
Procedural treatment for osteoarthritic joints include cortisone injections into the joint that can help decrease pain and inflammation. Regenerative type injections such as platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections and stem cell injections are also being used experimentally to provide a healthier environment to promote healing in the degenerated joint.