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Hip Arthritis

  • What is Hip Arthritis?

    Hip arthritis is a painful condition of the hip, caused by progressive wearing away of the joint cartilage. The cartilage is an elastic covering at the joints. Without the cartilage, the bones will rub against each other, thereby causing pain. Hip arthritis is among the most frequent causes of hip pain.

    The most common type of hip arthritis is osteoarthritis, often referred to as ‘wear-and-tear’ arthritis. In this type of arthritis, the normally smooth cartilage is worn away from repeated use until the bone is exposed. Other types of arthritis include rheumatoid arthritis (autoimmune disorder attacking joints) and gouty arthritis (deposition of uric crystals in joints).

  • Hip arthritis usually affects patients older than 50 years and is also common in people who are overweight. Some unusual causes of arthritis are:

    • Developmental dysplasia – when the hip is dislocated or out of position during infancy, the joint may not develop properly, leading to arthritis and walking problems at a young age
    • Legg-Calve-Perthes disease (LCPD) – this is similar to osteonecrosis (reduced blood supply to the bone) but happens during childhood. It can lead to permanent hip damage and early arthritis
  • The most common symptom of hip arthritis is pain when putting weight on the affected region, eg. while walking or sitting for a prolonged period. Other symptoms include:

    • A limp, which is the body's way of protecting the hip
    • Difficulty walking over low obstacles on the ground
    • Stiffness, which may cause difficulty performing certain activities, eg. sitting and rising from a low chair, getting into or out of a car or using the toilet
    • As the condition worsens, pain may be felt all the time, even at night
  • Non-surgical treatments for arthritis include:

    • Heat to relax and loosen tissues and to promote blood flow to the affected area
    • Ice to reduce swelling
    • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to ease pain and swelling
    • Rest to reduce the acute swelling

    Hip surgery may be considered in the following situations:

    • If arthritis limits day-to-day activities, eg. walking and bending down
    • If pain persists while resting
    • If stiffness limits the ability to move or lift your leg
    • If there is little pain relief from non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs

    Hip replacement surgery involves replacing the head of the femur (thigh bone) and the acetabulum (hip socket).

    Hip resurfacing, which saves more of the bone and minimises tissue trauma, only replaces the surface of the joint with a metal cap, making it appropriate for younger and more active patients.

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