The hip is an important joint as it controls a range of movements, such as stretching and bending. It also supports the body during walking, standing and running. The joint consists of a ball and a socket which are connected to each other by bands known as ligaments; these are lubricated to guard against friction. Cartilage surrounds the joint and helps to stop the bones from rubbing together.
What can cause hip pain?
Although injuries can be the root cause of hip pain, arthritis can also be a problem. Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage inside a hip joint wears away, so the bones rub against each other. In rheumatoid arthritis the immune system attacks the lining of the joint which results in pain and stiffness in the hip.
Medication can help with hip pain and there are a range of options available, including steroid injections, pain-relieving gels and creams as well as anti-inflammatory drugs. There are also drugs specifically aimed at tackling the immune system, which can help with rheumatoid arthritis – these are known as disease-modifying medications.
Physiotherapy can be very effective in tackling symptoms, as it strengthens the muscles which surround the joint, therefore improving flexibility, maintaining a range of movements and decreasing inflammation. It is also very important in rehabilitation after injury or an operation.
Modern medicine offers two surgical options:
A hip arthroscopy – is effective in treating an impinged hip. It corrects damaged cartilage by using a key-hole technique. In some cases it can stop osteoarthritis from developing.
Hip replacement – is considered when a hip joint is severely damaged or worn out and non-invasive alternatives have failed to reduce pain. It is not a lengthy operation as it normally takes between an hour and an hour and a half. The worn out joint is removed and replaced with one made from artificial material. After the operation, it is normal to stay in hospital for up to a week and sticks or crutches are used for a few weeks thereafter. Exercise and physiotherapy are very important in the recovery process. Artificial hips do wear out over time but this depends on the material used; your surgeon will advise you on the best option for your needs.
This page is intended for information purposes only and should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.