Hip > Arthritis > Treatments

    Non-Surgical Treatment


Light exercise is one of the most effective ways to relieve arthritis pain by stimulating circulation and strengthening the muscles, ligaments, and tendons around your hip. Strong muscles help support the bony structures of the hip and may provide relief from arthritis pain. The key is to work with your therapist to find a balance between low–impact and weight bearing activity. Too much weight bearing can damage your hip, but some weight bearing is needed to maintain bone strength. In conjunction with a healthy diet, exercise also can help you lose weight, which reduces stress on your arthritic hip.


In the first few weeks of rehabilitation, your physical therapist usually helps you stretch the muscles in your hamstrings, quadriceps, buttocks, groin, and back while flexing and extending your hip to restore a full, pain–free range of motion. Stretching should be continued for the rest of your life. Many patients receive effective pain relief from daily stretching.


When pain has decreased, physicians generally recommend at least 30 minutes of low–impact exercise a day for patients with arthritis. You should try to cut back on activities that put stress on your hips, like running and strenuous weight lifting. Cross–training exercise programs often are prescribed when you have arthritis. Depending on your preferences, your workouts may vary each day between cycling, cross–country skiing machines, elliptical training machines, swimming, and other low–impact cardiovascular exercises. Walking usually is better for arthritic hips than running, and many patients prefer swimming in a warm pool, which takes your body weight off your knees and makes movement easier.


Strength training usually focuses on moving light weights through a complete, controlled range of motion. Your physical therapist typically teaches you to move slowly through the entire motion with enough resistance to work your muscles without stressing hip bones. Once your physical therapist has taught you a proper exercise program, it is important to find time each day to perform the prescribed exercises.


Though there is no cure for osteoarthritis, you can prevent or minimize recurrent symptoms as well as slow the progression of osteoarthritis. Maintaining cardiovascular fitness has been an effective method for preventing the progression of osteoarthritis. Light, daily exercise is much better for an arthritic hip than occasional, heavy exercise. It is especially important to avoid suffering any serious hip injuries, like torn ligaments or fractured bones. Arthritis can complicate hip injury treatment or result from a serious hip injury. You should avoid high–impact or repetitive–stress sports, like football and distance running, that can cause severe hip injuries. Depending on the severity of your arthritis, your physician may also recommend limiting your participation in sports that involve sprinting, twisting, or jumping. Because osteoarthritis has multiple causes and may be related to genetic factors, no simple prevention tactic will help everyone avoid increased arthritic pain. To prevent the spread of arthritis, physicians generally recommend that you take the following precautions:

   Avoid anything that makes pain last for more than an hour or two.

   Perform controlled range of motion activities that do not overload the joint.

   Avoid heavy impact on the hips during everyday and athletic activities.

   Gently strengthen the muscles in your thigh, groin, and back to help protect the bones and cartilage in your hip.

Non–contact activities and stretching are a great way to maintain fitness and keep joints and bones healthy over time. Exercise also helps promote weight loss, which can take stress off all weight–bearing joints.

Treatment Introduction [top]

Arthritis treatments begin with the least invasive techniques. A combination of rest, medication, and light exercise can initially ease arthritis pain:

   Rest – Continuing some form of light exercise is important for circulation and bone strength, but you should usually decrease the intensity of your involvement in physical activities if arthritis is causing pain. You do not want to risk suffering joint injuries in contact sports due to excessive twisting, jumping, or pivoting.

   Non–steroidal anti–inflammatories – Over–the–counter medications like aspirin and ibuprofen may decrease the production of fluids that cause arthritic irritation in the hip. Prescription–strength medicine may be prescribed, as well as painkillers like acetaminophen. The dose depends on the drug. It is a bad idea to take the same anti–inflammatory for more than a couple of months because of potential side effects.

   Physicians have also begun to prescribe a newer type of anti-inflammatory medication known as COX-2 inhibitor. Like traditional anti-inflammatories, COX-2 inhibitors can effectively treat arthritis pain and inflammation. The benefit of COX-2 inhibitors is that the seem to cause less stomach irritation that traditional medications.

   Corticosteroid injections – Corticosteroids have strong anti–inflammatory effects when injected directly into your painful hip. Injections usually are done to treat acute painful episodes. They may control pain so you can continue exercising. However, these injections are sparingly used because corticosteroids can lead to hip damage when injected multiple times.

   You may be instructed to use a cane to keep weight off your hip joint. Weight loss programs also can help relieve stress to your hip and may slow the progression of osteoarthritis.

   Your physician usually refers you to a physical therapist, who can teach you proper light exercise techniques that keep you strong without risking further damage to your hip. Many patients receive pain relief from learning daily stretching routines.

   Heat treatments are available, including heat lamps, hot showers, heating pads, heat ointments, and whirlpool or bath treatments. Many people with arthritis alleviate pain with heat treatment before activities and ice afterwards. Heat treatment usually is left to your physical therapist's discretion.

Non-Surgical Treatment
   Treatment Introduction
Total Hip Replacement

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