Understanding Hip Osteoarthritis: The Primary Cause of Hip Replacement Surgery

Hip Osteoarthritis
Hip Osteoarthritis

Understanding hip osteoarthritis and the need for hip replacement surgery. Learn about symptoms, causes, stages, and surgery options, including abroad.

Hip replacement surgery is a common treatment option for people with osteoarthritis (OA) of the hip. It occurs when the cartilage in your hip joint begins to break down, causing increased friction when moving. The cartilage usually cushions the joint, ensuring the two bone ends glide over each other.

Initially, the condition is mild. However, it is progressive and will gradually worsen, affecting the individual’s quality of life. Medical professionals will start with conservative treatments, such as anti-inflammatory medication or physical therapy. But, after a certain point, hip replacement surgery is the best option.

In this guide:

  • Osteoarthritis Symptoms
  • Causes of Osteoarthritis
  • Stage of Hip Osteoarthritis
  • Diagnosis and Treatment Options
  • Organising Hip Replacement Surgery Abroad

Osteoarthritis Symptoms

Hip osteoarthritis (OA) begins with mild symptoms, primarily discomfort in the joint. As the cartilage wears down further, the symptoms begin to become more severe. Patients can go from some pain when walking to moderate stiffness to extreme pain when walking or moving.

The severity of the symptoms reflects the current state of the condition. The more cartilage wears away, the greater the symptoms become. Eventually, hip replacement surgery is the only viable option.

OA symptoms include:

  • Pain in the groin, thigh, or buttocks
  • Stiffness, especially in the morning or after inactivity
  • Reduced range of motion
  • Swelling and tenderness
  • Creaking or grating sensation
  • Limping
  • Muscle weakness
  • Pain at rest, including night pain
  • Locking or catching sensation
  • Development of bone spurs

People may also complain that symptoms worsen during changes in weather, such as cold or damp conditions.

Causes of Osteoarthritis

The underlying cause of osteoarthritis is believed to be wear and tear. Excessive use of the hip joint wears down the cartilage to the bone, leading to severe pain and sensitivity. But new research is putting this into question.

One study of marathon runners found no connection between OA and long-term joint use. However, people who spend a lifetime in manual labour or kneeling and squatting do have a greater risk. The main difference is likely the volume of synovial fluid available to lubricate the joint.

Other risk factors for OA include:

  • Previous trauma or injury to the hip joint
  • Genetic factors
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Congenital bone abnormalities
  • Being over 50 years old

While these risk factors aren’t an inevitable cause of osteoarthritis of the hip, they will increase your propensity for the condition. Moreover, once the process begins, the cartilage will continue to wear away.

Stages of Hip Osteoarthritis

Hip osteoarthritis doesn’t progress overnight. It takes several years – or even decades – to transition from the initial symptoms to hip replacement surgery. To understand this progression, the condition is split into five broad stages:

Stage 0 – Normal

The hip joint is healthy, with no signs of OA. The cartilage is intact, and there is no pain or inflammation.

Stage 1 – Minor

Early signs of wear-and-tear are present, including slight cartilage damage and small bone spur growths. Pain is usually mild and intermittent.

Stage 2 – Mild

Noticeable wear on the cartilage alongside larger bone spurs. Pain is more frequent, and stiffness and discomfort are becoming a problem.

Stage 3 – Moderate

Significant cartilage loss, narrowing of the joint space, and increased bone spur growth. Pain and stiffness become more persistent with noticeable swelling.

Stage 4 – Severe

Extensive or complete cartilage loss. Bone-on-bone contact causes severe pain, chronic inflammation, and stiffness. Mobility is greatly reduced, and daily activities are extremely difficult.

Stage 4 is usually the point at which surgeons and other medical professionals begin to consider hip replacement therapy as the best treatment option. The cartilage is almost completely worn away, bone is rubbing against bone, and there is a significant deformity. Only by replacing the joint ends will the symptoms subside.

Diagnosis and Treatment Options


Your doctor can identify hip OA from your medical history and an examination. If they suspect the condition, you will be sent for an X-ray to assess the condition of your joint.

Characteristic signs of hip OA on an x-ray include narrowing of the joint space, increased bone formation around the joint, bony spurs, and cyst formation. Your doctor(s) will use this X-ray as a benchmark, monitoring your progression going forward.


Conservative Treatment

Initial treatment is with anti-inflammatory medications like NSAIDs and steroids. NSAIDs (e.g., ibuprofen or naproxen) relieve some of the pain and alleviate any inflammation. The only downside is a slight risk of stomach ulcers.

Steroid injections are another possibility. The evidence for their efficacy is heavily debated. But many patients claim to see an improvement in joint function. These medications are a temporary solution.

Physical therapy, exercise, and weight loss can improve symptoms – both before and after a hip replacement. Losing weight relieves pressure on the joint, while physical therapy strengthens the muscles and ligaments around the knee joint.

Hip Replacement Surgery

Hip replacement surgery is advised when no other treatment provides relief. It involves removing the damaged ends of the bone and replacing them with a brand-new prosthetic. Patients notice a sudden improvement in symptoms – although they usually need several months of physical therapy to return to normal.

Organising Hip Replacement Surgery Abroad

Living with the constant pain of hip OA shouldn’t be forever. Yet, waiting times for hip replacement surgery have soared in recent years. Even if you choose to go private, the hip surgery price in Ireland is exceptionally high.

Kardiolita Hospital in Lithuania is a world-class institution that offers high-quality hip surgery abroad. The cost is around a tenth of the average price in Ireland. Plus, we provide a comprehensive rehabilitation program, including physical therapy.

Get in touch today, and let us get you back on your feet.

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