Have you noticed that getting up and going has been getting a little harder for you? Maybe your head says “walk,” but your hip says “not so fast.”
Many people are willing to accept the little aches and pains that seem inevitable as we get older. But when those pains start interfering with our ability to do not only what we love to do, but also what we need to do, it’s time to pay attention and ask for help.
What Is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease, is exactly what the name implies. It is the most common form of arthritis and literally affects millions of people around the world.
While there may be some hereditary aspects, this type of arthritis is usually caused by wear and tear on our joints. Past injuries can definitely play their part, but also repetitive movements, high-impact movements, and extended periods of stress on your joints over a lifetime can cause the protective cartilage that cushions the ends of your bones to wear down.
Excess weight can accelerate the problem. As the cartilage wears away, the bone in your joints also gets worn down. As the body then tries to replace that bone tissue, the new bone is often not as smooth as the original bone, causing rough edges to create more damage in the joint. The most common joints to be affected by osteoarthritis are knees, hands and fingers, the spine, and, yes, the hips.
What Should Make Me Suspect Hip Arthritis?
Hip arthritis often develops slowly over time, and it won’t catch your attention until it hurts when you use your hip to do something, like standing up or walking. As the disease progresses, pain becomes more frequent – and if you’ve been sitting or lying down for a while, you’ll likely feel significant pain when you first get up and go. This pain will often ease up as you continue to move.
Pain and stiffness, especially as you move from resting to a weight-bearing activity, is very characteristic of this type of arthritis. Pain is often felt in the groin, or where the front pocket of your pants is located. You might also feel pain in the upper thigh, the side of your leg, and sometimes the buttocks.
Sometimes pain in one area may be coming from another, so it is always a good idea to be checked out by an orthopedic surgeon if you are experiencing recurrent pain. For example, if you experience pain where your back pocket is located, don’t be fooled. This may not be your hip at all – it may be coming from your lower back. Another example is pain down the front of the leg to the knee. While you may think this is coming from the knee, this may actually be from your hip.
You may notice that you have trouble crossing your legs or putting on your shoes and socks. Limping, and almost lurching toward your good hip, can put you at risk of falling. A cane or walker may be needed at this point to help ease the pain and keep you safe.
As hip arthritis worsens, you might notice that your leg rotates outward when you are walking. Your back may start bothering you because it is doing the work that your hip can no longer do. Eventually, as your cartilage wears away in the joint, your leg may become shorter on that side, similar to the effect of a flat tire on a car.
Other symptoms that are common with hip arthritis are a feeling of grinding, catching or locking of the joint. You may also hear cracking and creaking. The weakness and pain may cause the sensation of your hip buckling or giving way. This, of course, could result in you falling.
You will eventually notice that you cannot move the hip like you used to, because of the pain. Walking for any length of time, taking the stairs, and getting out of a chair are all activities that become increasingly difficult with hip arthritis. You may also notice tenderness and even a little swelling of the hip joint. And overdoing it today will definitely cause worse pain tomorrow.
What Should I Do if I Think I Have Hip Arthritis?
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms and you feel like the pain is limiting the things you can do, it’s time to seek help. There are many options for treatment that can improve your mobility. Pain medications, proper footwear, and therapeutic exercise are all beneficial in the treatment of arthritis.
If you are overweight, losing weight will help. Using a cane or walker can help with pain and help keep you from falling. Other treatments to discuss with your orthopedic surgeon could be injections or surgery.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, or are bothered with hip pain that is interfering with your lifestyle, contact our friendly team today at the offices of Dr. Brett Gilbert by calling us at (919) 788-8797 or request an appointment online, and work to start living pain-free once again.