Around 9% of adults in the UK over 45 have some hip osteoarthritis. It is a really common problem and one of the main questions those who have it is “why me?”, closely followed by “what do I do about it?”
Why have I got arthritis?
When most people talk about “arthritis” they are referring to osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis can develop as a consequence of an abnormally shaped hip, for example due to trauma, childhood hip problems or femoroacetabular impingement.
In these cases, the cartilage lining of the hip either has to take too much load or is damaged and ultimately is worn away. This loss of the cartilage lining is the fundamental issue in osteoarthritis.
However, in most people with hip osteoarthritis there is no obvious abnormality of the shape of the hip. The precise reason why people get osteoarthritis in these circumstances is not fully known, but it appears that both genetics and lifestyle have an impact.
Osteoarthritis certainly runs in families, so if your parents suffered, then you may be at higher risk. Genetics alone are not enough, the joint needs to be used for osteoarthritis to occur. For most people this is the cumulative effect of getting about during our life, so the longer you live the more likely you are to develop the condition. Other lifestyle issues such as increased body weight, a physically demanding job or sporting activity may also predispose.
Osteoarthritis: does what I eat matter?
There are huge numbers of supplements promoting better joint health and not a week goes by without an article extolling the virtues of a particular diet in reducing osteoarthritis symptoms. In most cases these claims are made on little or no evidence of effectiveness.
The area where diet definitely does impact on the development of osteoarthritis is through obesity, so if you are overweight it is worth having a look at your diet, this is often more effectively achieved through a group such as WeightWatchers or Slimming World.
The British Dietetic Association recommend 1-2 portions of oily fish per week as well as using oils rich in mono-unsaturates (like olive oil) for those with osteoarthritis, though there is limited evidence of their effectiveness in reducing osteoarthritis symptoms. They also suggest ensuring adequate quantities of vitamins A, C, D, E and K in your diet. The only supplement they recommend taking is Vitamin D during winter months.
There is very limited evidence about the effectiveness of other marketed supplements such as Chondroitin, Glucosamine, Ginger, Indian Frankincense, SAM-e, Avocado-soybean Unsaponifiables and Turmeric in relieving hip osteoarthritis. If you are considering taking a supplement, it is worth discussing it with your doctor first.
Does exercise help osteoarthritis symptoms?
Asking people to exercise when they have osteoarthritis might seem rather harsh, as moving an arthritic hip is painful!
However, low impact exercise such as cycling has been shown to be beneficial in reducing pain and stiffness, even in people with quite severe osteoarthritis. Tai Chi and Yoga can also be effective. If you enjoy walking, then using walking poles or a walking stick in the hand opposite your painful hip can help.
As a patient of Grosvenor Orthopaedic Partners we will discuss with you the importance of a healthy diet and carefully chosen exercise as part of any treatment process.
What painkillers should I take with osteaoarthritis?
Simple painkillers such as paracetamol are the first option, however, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen or naproxen are probably better.
It is worth discussing with your doctor whether you are able to take non-steroidal anti-inflammatories are they are not suitable for everyone and should be taken with medication to protect your stomach lining.
Opiate type painkillers, such as codeine and tramadol, should not be taken regularly as they are addictive and become ineffective after a few weeks, but they can be useful for short term exacerbations of symptoms.
Do therapeutic injections help osteoarthritis symptoms?
Hip injections of corticosteroid or hyaluronic acid can provide temporary relief of symptoms. They are not a cure but can be effective for some people. There are very small risks of infection with any injection and with steroids there is a small risk of the hip bone collapsing and accelerating the need for a hip replacement.
Hip replacement surgery is an option to relieve painful symptoms
If simple measures like exercise, weight loss and basic painkillers are not enough to control your symptoms then it is worth having a discussion with a surgeon about a hip replacement.
Hip replacement is a highly effective operation for osteoarthritis. The timing of when to have a hip replacement is mainly down to how painful your symptoms are.
If you have any questions about osteoarthritis of the hip including about the most effective treatment, please contact our team to arrange an initial consultation.