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What is Arthritis?

Arthritis literally means inflammation of a joint. However, it is used as a general term to describe any issue with joints.

The commonest form of arthritis is osteoarthritis. This condition is often referred to as “wear and tear”, and can affect any adult over the age of 40.

Inflammatory disorders, such as rheumatoid disease, can result in arthritis due to damage from the inflammation.

Arthritis may also occur as a consequence of injury, such as a hip fracture or dislocation.

The end result, though, is the same. That is, the joint becomes arthritic. This is a medical term simply meaning that the cartilage surface of the joint is damaged, no matter what the cause. The body is unable to repair or replace damaged cartilage.

The consequences of this for the patient depend on the joint involved.

Hip joint arthritis predominantly causes pain but may also result in joint stiffness with restricted motion, shortening of the leg, and development of a limp.

These symptoms may affect your quality of life and activities of daily living to a greater or lesser degree.

The diagnosis of osteoarthritis is made on history, physical examination and plain X-rays. There is no blood test to diagnose Osteoarthritis (wear & tear arthritis). An MRI scan is not usually required.

What are the treatment options for an arthritis hip?

Treatment for an arthritic hip starts with non-surgical measures. These are referred to medically as conservative treatments.

Conservative treatments for hip arthritis are:

  • Activity modification - slowing down, changing the way you do things and avoiding activities that precipitate the pain
  • Walking aids - a stick, cane, crutches or a walking frame can be useful, but have a varying degree of acceptability and effectiveness
  • Medication - simple pain killers such as paracetamol products, anti-inflammatory medications, and ultimately strong morphine-type painkillers can be considered

When the symptoms reach a level where the above measures are no longer effective or acceptable, this is generally the time that it is appropriate to consider hip joint replacement surgery. That is, the place for surgery is when all non-surgical measures have been taken and are no longer satisfactory.