According to the Arthritis Foundation, every day, several million Americans deal with hip pain from osteoarthritis.
Also referred to as degenerative joint disease, hip arthritis is one of the most frequently seen forms of arthritis in the extremities and can be the cause of a number of functional deficits and disabilities.
In a normal hip, the surfaces of the ball and socket are extraordinarily smooth and allow for seamless motion of the leg during walking and other activities. What's truly amazing is that the cartilage surfaces are so smooth, there's less friction between them than if you were to rub two pieces of ice together.
But despite its smoothness, the hip joint is subject to wear and tear just the same as any other major weight bearing joint in the body — and decades of abuse and injury make it a prime area for cartilage break down.
Although osteoarthritis is permanent in the way that the structure of the bones will never change, not all arthritic joints produce symptoms. In fact, arthritic joints spend a vast majority of the time in a dormant state — not causing any outward physical signs or symptoms that would be suggestive of underlying joint damage.
Over the years, clinicians have developed scores of effective conservative strategies to help mitigate pain from hip arthritis. The first step, however, is diagnosing the problem — so read on to see if you have any of the following clinical signs of hip osteoarthritis.
If you can't bend to put on your shoes or socks, hip arthritis may be getting in your way. Hip arthritis naturally restricts your ability to pull your knee up to your chest, and conversely, it also affects your ability to bend your chest to your knee. If you're having to wiggle and dance to get your dancing shoes on, talk to your doctor before you go barefoot.
If a little walking straightens you out it could be a sign that your hip is stiffening up. Gentle range of motion and walking lubricates the hip joint with synovial fluid. The more fluid, the better your motion and the better your hip will perform during routine daily tasks.
If you limp when you walk it could be because of a range of motion restriction. Arthritic joints are notorious for causing limited motion, and joint restrictions are often manifested through functional activities. So if you feel like you have a bit of a gallop when you walk - or if someone has asked you why you're limping, it's time to get checked out.
Pain along the crease of the groin is a strong clinical indicator that there's something awry in the adjacent ball and socket. Nearly one-hundred percent of patients with hip osteoarthritis report pain in the groin as their primary clinical symptom.
There are other presentations of hip arthritis, but this is certainly the most common, so if you don't have groin pain, your hip is likely not the culprit.
Gloucester resident Joe DiVincenzo is a physical therapist and clinical specialist in manual therapy. He writes "On the Mend" weekly. Questions may be submitted to Joe by email at email@example.com.