You’ve felt a twinge in your hips on and off for a while now, and the doctor has finally confirmed it. You have hip arthritis. Now, you have to decide on which hip arthritis treatment you should pursue. The amount of options is overwhelming. And at a glance, there’s no way to tell which ones will get you back on your feet quickly.
Today, we’ll be taking a closer look at the most common arthritis hip treatment options. Armed with a better understanding of what’s available, you can start putting together an arthritis treatment plan that works for you.
What is hip arthritis?
Arthritis covers a wide range of conditions. Most commonly, though, arthritis refers to osteoarthritis. Also known as “wear and tear” arthritis, osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage in your hips, knees, or other joints begins to wear down.
Cartilage is a kind of protective padding that your body uses to smooth the edges of joints. It’s tough and shock absorbent, but also smooth and slippery. Healthy cartilage allows your joints to move without friction or pain.
The problem is, your body’s natural production of cartilage slows over time, and it’s very slow to heal. Why is cartilage slow to heal? Cartilage doesn’t have any blood vessels running through it, making it difficult for your body to send the resources it would need to repair cartilage.
The natural difficulty of healing cartilage is why osteoarthritis is a chronic condition. Once you’re diagnosed with hip arthritis, there’s no cure. Hip arthritis treatment doesn’t remove the arthritis, it simply removes the pain and stiffness that arthritis causes.
At-home hip arthritis treatment
Since arthritis hip treatment doesn’t cure arthritis, there are a number of things you can do from home to help manage your symptoms. Treatment for hip arthritis without surgery will include things that you can do yourself and things that your healthcare team can do in a medical setting.
Here are just some of the treatments you can try at home to manage your hip arthritis:
Each time you take a step, your hips hold the full weight of your body. Since hip arthritis is caused by wear and tear in the joint, managing excess weight can reduce arthritis symptoms. Weight management will look different for everyone, so speak with your doctor before starting any new diet or workout plans.
Weight management isn’t an overnight hip arthritis treatment. Your symptoms probably won’t go away as a result of starting a weight loss plan. The good news is that weight management may slow the development of arthritis, and staying at a healthy weight benefits your whole body!
Whether you choose to start a weight loss plan or not, exercise is an important part of managing hip arthritis. Exercise reduces stiffness and pain in people with arthritis, especially when you do it regularly.
Exercise might not be what first comes to mind when you think of hip arthritis treatment, but it helps for one key reason. While your hip is made of bone and cartilage, it’s also made of muscles. When you strengthen and stabilize the muscles around your hip joint, your cartilage doesn’t have to endure as much pressure.
Taking pressure off your cartilage will slow the development of hip arthritis, as well as relieving symptoms like stiffness and pain.
There’s no magic food you can eat to cure arthritis, but dietary changes can be part of your at-home hip arthritis treatment.
When making dietary changes for your arthritis, you want to eat foods that help you fight inflammation and support joint health. This can start with eating more whole foods, and foods rich in vitamin C, vitamin K, and omega 3s. Then, supplement with a medical-grade collagen for joints.
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body, and it accounts for more than half of the dry weight of cartilage. Collagen production slows down as you age, too, making cartilage even harder to repair and maintain with age.
When you supplement with collagen, you can make up for some of what your body has lost, and support your arthritis hip treatment in the process.
Medications as a treatment for hip arthritis
Hip arthritis pain relief is at the top of the list when it comes to treatment for hip arthritis. Since arthritis can’t be cured, managing symptoms like pain and stiffness will be the number one priority. And managing stiffness with exercise is much more difficult when you’re in too much pain to move.
Managing pain will look different depending on where you are in your hip arthritis treatment. At first, standard pain management like ice, heat, and over-the-counter medication should do the trick. As the arthritis advances, your doctor may recommend other pain relief methods.
“NSAID” stands for “Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug”, and covers a wide range of medications. The most common are medications you may have in your cabinet right now!
Ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin are all NSAIDs, and can help soothe the pain from your hip arthritis. Some people find that these medications cause stomach upset. In this case, you may also want to try topical NSAIDs, like arthritis pain gels, which may soothe some arthritis pain without causing stomach upset.
Over time, the effectiveness of NSAIDs wanes. This, along with the damage to your cartilage getting more severe over time, means the medication you can buy in stores may not help for long. Your doctor may prescribe stronger versions of over-the-counter medications, if needed.
Corticosteroids are strong, fast-acting anti-inflammatory drugs. Unlike NSAIDs, corticosteroids are steroidal drugs. (However, they aren’t the same kind of steroids that athletes sometimes abuse.) They’re available only by prescription, and are used to reduce the inflammation hip arthritis can cause.
Corticosteroids aren’t used often, since they can have intense side effects if used over a long period of time. Your doctor might prescribe oral or injected corticosteroids in combination with another hip arthritis treatment or while waiting for a treatment like surgery.
Injections can cover a wide range of hip arthritis treatments, but not all injections you hear of are helpful. Many are still in the experimental phase and may or may not fit into your arthritis hip treatment. It’s important to talk with your healthcare team to understand the potential risks and benefits of treatments like these.
Currently, injection options to treat hip arthritis pain include:
Hyaluronic acid, which mimics the body’s synovial fluid and creates smoother movement in the hip joint
Platelet-rich plasma, which uses your body’s own plasma and platelets to stimulate healing in the hip
- Stem Cell, which draws cells that can develop into any kind of cell from bone marrow and injects them into the hip, stimulating cartilage growth
Medical interventions for hip arthritis
As your hip arthritis progresses, you may need medical intervention to manage pain and regain movement. Hip arthritis treatment that’s done with a healthcare team will typically include some of the pain management medications listed above. This may or may not include surgery, and whether you’ll need a hip replacement will depend on the severity of your arthritis.
Hip resurfacing is a form of hip arthritis treatment that helps you hold off on a total hip replacement, while still reducing pain and increasing movement.
During a hip resurfacing, your surgeon will put a small metal “cap” on your thigh bone, and a thin metal shell into your hip socket. The surgeon may shave off small parts of damaged bone or cartilage, but your hip stays mostly intact.
Hip resurfacing is helpful for people under 65 with strong bones who need treatment for hip arthritis. It allows for more adjustment and replacement of parts over time, unlike a total hip replacement.
Total hip replacement
In a total hip replacement, your hip is replaced with a prosthesis – a man-made version of the same mechanical structure. The surgery will typically keep you in the hospital for 1 - 3 days, with a recovery time of 3 - 6 weeks.
After hip replacement surgery, you’ll be able to more or less go back to life as normal. Modern prostheses last much longer and function much better than they used to, so a hip revision after a replacement is rare unless something goes wrong.
Best of all, this is the one hip arthritis treatment that will provide instant relief. While the pain of recovering from surgery will stick around for a while, many people find that the arthritis pain is gone immediately upon waking up from anesthesia.
Physical therapy is often used in both recovery from hip surgery and general hip arthritis treatment. A physical therapist is an expert in how the body moves under different conditions.
During arthritis hip treatment, a physical therapist can guide you through the exercises and stretches your body needs to recover and strengthen itself.
What to avoid when treating hip arthritis
When undergoing hip arthritis treatment, there are a few things to look out for. First, remember that pain is a signal. If anything you do is intensely painful, slow down or stop altogether until you can consult with a doctor.
Hip arthritis is a wear-and-tear condition, which means the harder you are on your hip, the worse your condition will get. On the other hand, if you can take steps to care for and strengthen your hip, the condition will slow and allow you to live with less pain for longer before needing extreme interventions.
Over- or under-using pain medication
Keep an eye on your relationship with your pain medication. Taking too much can increase your risk of side effects and make the medication less effective. Too little, and the pain may prevent you from being able to care for yourself or do strengthening exercises.
Be aware of how much medication you’re taking and how effective it is. Then, bring your healthcare team on board to create a game plan moving forward. Pain medication is an important part of hip arthritis treatment, and this will help ensure you get all the benefits with as few side effects as possible.
High-impact physical activities
High-impact physical activities will cause the cartilage in your hip to degrade faster, and will likely be very painful. These include aerobic activities like running, and sports like tennis or soccer.
Anything that requires you to put a lot of weight on your hip or move it repetitively is something to avoid.
Exercise is encouraged as part of your hip arthritis treatment, but opt for low-impact activity. Swimming, cycling, and tai chi are all wonderful ways to strengthen your hips without causing further damage to your cartilage.
If there’s a particular activity you want to work into your routine, talk to your healthcare team first.
Smoking can cause your cartilage to degrade faster, bring complications in surgery, and potentially make other treatments less effective. If you’ve been looking for a reason to quit, this is it!
Quitting smoking can be an incredibly helpful part of your hip arthritis treatment and, like weight management, benefits your whole body. The more you smoke, the more intense the negative effects will be, so if you can’t bring yourself to quit altogether, consider cutting back.
Hip arthritis treatment that fits your lifestyle
Hip arthritis treatment isn’t one-size-fits-all. Your treatment will include a number of different things, and will likely change over time. The most important thing you can do to manage hip arthritis is learn about the way your body reacts to different treatments.
Start with things you can do at home, like hip strengthening exercises, eating well, and taking hydrolyzed collagen to support your joints.
If your arthritis is more advanced, these can help prevent it from affecting your other joints and hip. And if you’re in the early stages of hip arthritis, these things may help you manage your condition for years to come.