Physio for Osteoarthritis of the Hip


Physio for Osteoarthritis of the Hip

Updated April 6th 2021

Osteoarthritis is one the most common forms of arthritis worldwide. This condition can affect the knee, hips, and spine, hands, and other joints. It’s the primary cause of pain and disability among seniors. Though its symptoms can be successfully managed, there is no permanent cure available.

The best way to relieve osteoarthritis pain is to maintain a healthy weight and stay active. Physiotherapy can slow its progression and improve your quality of life. Its goal is to restore joint function and mobility.

What Is Osteoarthritis of the Hip?

Hip osteoarthritis, or degenerative arthritis of the hip, causes pain and swelling in the hip joints. This disorder is more common among the elderly and can affect one or both hips. Its symptoms range from mild to severe, and may include limited range of motion, stiffness in the hip joint, pain, and soreness.

Sometimes, surgery is the only option. In Australia, the number of hip replacements increased by 20 percent from 2003 to 2012. However, there are other treatment options to consider before going under the knife.

Physio has emerged as a safe way to manage hip osteoarthritis and relieve pain. A good therapist can teach you exercises that strengthen the hip joints and restore your range of motion. They will also recommend preventive and self-care measures, such as walking, healthy eating, and stretching.

Causes of Hip Osteoarthritis

According to a study published in the journal Disability and Rehabilitation, one in four people will develop hip osteoarthritis at some point in life. This degenerative disorder causes mobility changes and hip pain, making daily activities difficult. You may have a hard time climbing the stairs, walking, running, exercising, or picking objects from the floor.

Hip osteoarthritis is caused by the gradual wear-and-tear of the cartilage in your joints. In some cases, it occurs because of an injury to the joint. Other risk factors include aging, obesity, genetics, and joint trauma. For instance, obese people are more likely to develop this condition. The excess weight puts pressure on the knees and hips, causing pain and inflammation.

Research suggests that individuals with a family history of osteoarthritis are at high risk. Certain genes may result in joint alignment problems and joint abnormalities, which may lead to arthritis of the hips.

This disorder is common in athletes and people with physically demanding jobs. Repetitive motions, such as running or heavy lifting, increases injury risk. Old injuries may contribute to osteoarthritis.

Treatment depends on the cause of your problem. A doctor or a physiotherapist will assess your symptoms and perform a physical exam.

Hip Osteoarthritis Symptoms

The symptoms of hip osteoarthritis vary from one person to another. In general, they develop slowly and get worse over the years.

You may experience pain when standing or sitting for a long time, hear grinding noises from the hip, or lose your ability to move the joints through their full range motion. Your hip joints may hurt when it’s raining outside or after vigorous activity. Sometimes, the pain can radiate to your knee or buttocks.

Many patients report hip stiffness in the morning, tenderness that comes and goes, and pain in their thighs. They may have difficulty reaching their feet and walking around. Other symptoms include:

  • Swelling of the joint
  • Tenderness
  • Grinding, creaking, or grating sensations when moving the joint
  • Physical deformities
  • Bone spurs

In the long run, hip osteoarthritis may cause numbness or pain in the knees and back. The pain can be sharp and intense, or dull and aching. It may come and go, or flare ups when you exercise or sit for long hours.

These symptoms can interfere with your daily life and shouldn’t be taken lightly. If left untreated, they can worsen and cause severe damage to the cartilage. The pain becomes more severe, limiting your range of motion.

In advanced stages of the disease, traditional treatment is no longer helpful. Simply walking short distances can result in throbbing pain.

Does Physio Help with Osteoarthritis of the Hip?

Depending on the severity of your symptoms, treatment may include pain killers, assistive devices, hip replacement, or osteotomy. A less invasive option is physiotherapy. The pain can be reduced through simple therapeutic exercises and activities targeting the hip joint.

Your physiotherapist can recommend manual techniques, exercises, ice and heat, taping, stretching, and “passive” motions that increase joint flexibility. The end goal is to  improve your strength, mobility and increase range of motion. Physio also helps relieve pain and restores normal movement in the hip and legs.

Studies confirm the efficiency of physiotherapy exercises for osteoarthritis. Compared to traditional treatment, physio has no side effects and can be used on most patients. A standard treatment plan may include advice and education, preventive strategies, exercise, joint mobilisation, and more.

According to science, physiotherapy can help osteoarthritis patients improve their stance and balance, regain their strength, and resume their daily activities. Physio exercises may also reduce pain and increase joint flexibility. Certain techniques, such as massage, improve circulation to the muscles and tendons, which helps prevent further damage to the joints.

The physiotherapist may recommend strengthening exercises that improve hip function. Some examples include shuttle walking, knee-to-chest, water aerobics, bridging, external hip rotation, or heel pivots. Therapeutic exercises work best for those diagnosed in early stages of the disease. For this reason, it’s important to start a training routine as soon as you begin to experience pain.

In a 2017 study conducted on 13 women with hip osteoarthritis, pain dropped by 30 percent and hip strength increased by 20 percent after 12 weeks of exercise. At the same time, their hip range of motion improved by up to 30 percent.

If you suffer from hip osteoarthritis, get treatment as early as possible. See a physiotherapist and work together to find the best approach to managing your symptoms.

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