Osteoarthritis (OA) is a common source of pain for many Australians and is the most commonly experienced degenerative joint condition. It occurs when the cartilage between the joint beaks down. Cartilage covers the ends of the bones where the joint forms and it acts as a cushion, providing a smooth, gliding surface at which the joint moves. Over time, this cartilage tends to wear down, and can lead to OA. As OA progresses, less cartilage is present and there is greater bone-on-bone contact at the joint.
Hip OA causes pain and stiffness around the affected joint and may occur in one or both joints. It can lead to a loss of function with even simple tasks, like walking or squatting, becoming difficult. Initially diagnosis may be tricky as pain can be diffuse in nature and may be often difficult to pinpoint. Symptoms may be felt in your groin, buttock, thigh or even the outside of the knee, with pain being either a dull ache or a sharp stab. Day-to-day activities such as getting in and out of the car, putting on socks and bending to pick things up from the floor may become painful to perform.
Your physiotherapist can aid you with your diagnosis, differentiating your hip from your back or pelvis as potential sources of your symptoms. They will assess your joint difficulties, your function and your level of activity. If OA is suspected, then an MRI may be performed to confirm the diagnosis.
Weight loss and strength-based exercises are shown to be the most effective forms of management for hip OA and should always be the first choice for treatment. Exercise is aimed at strengthening the surrounding musculature which will assist with deloading the affected hip, taking pressure and stress of the joint; whilst weight loss reduces the compressive load through the joint.
Exercises should be targeted and specific to hip OA. They should be prescribed by a physiotherapist and monitored closely to allow for appropriate modifications and progressions.
At Revive we run the GLA:D program for clients with hip or knee OA. It is a six week evidence based program that incorporates a combination of exercise and education sessions lead by a qualified physiotherapist.