Understanding Groin Pain: Unveiling the Link to Hip Osteoarthritis

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What is Hip Osteoarthritis?

Arthritis refers to all forms of inflammatory and degenerative conditions of the hip.  While arthritis may occur in any joint in the body, it typically occurs in the joints that help to bear the weight of a patient, such as the hips or knees.

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a type of arthritis that specifically refers to joint degeneration and loss of cartilage over the joint surface. Hip OA most commonly affects older patients.

While hip osteoarthritis cannot be reversed, it is important for patients who suspect that they might have hip arthritis to seek medical attention quickly, as early diagnosis and treatment might help to reduce further damage to the hip

What exactly causes Hip Osteoarthritis?

There is usually no known cause of hip OA. Occasionally, hip OA can arise due to another condition that causes damage to the hip joint. Some of these conditions include,

  • Previous hip fracture or dislocation
  • Inflammatory or infectious joint disease
  • Malformations in the hip that occur at birth
  • Tears to the cartilage around the hip known as the labrum
  • Avascular necrosis of the femoral head

Some risk factors that have been suggested, include,

  • High impact sporting activities
  • High rate of prolonged manual labour
  • Family history of hip OA

Do I have Hip Osteoarthritis?

The symptoms of hip osteoarthritis include:

  • Pain in the groin or thigh that spreads to the knee

    • This pain may worsen over time and flare up with vigorous activity. However, some patients do experience sudden onsets of pain.
    • Pain may also worsen in cold weather
  • Some patients also experience stiffness in the hip joint that often limits the patient’s range of motion, making it more difficult for them to walk or bend.
  • Patients may also experience a grinding noise, “locking” or “sticking” of the joint during movement.
  • Change in the way a patient walks

How is Hip Osteoarthritis diagnosed?

If your doctor suspects that you may have hip arthritis after comprehensive history taking, he/she will perform a clinical examination focused on the hip, which will include an analysis of the way you walk.

In most cases, X-rays of the hip will then be performed, which will allow the doctor to confirm the diagnosis of hip OA. The X-ray may also provide clues as to the possible underlying cause of hip OA.

Can Hip Osteoarthritis be treated?

While damage to the joints is irreversible, there are several treatment options, which can broadly be divided into non-surgical

Non-surgical treatment options

  • Lifestyle modifications

    • Weight loss can help relieve pressure on the hip joint, and reduce symptoms of pain.
    • Activity modification to avoid activities that may trigger pain, such as stair climbing, and certain forms of intense exercise

  • Walking aids can help take the weight off the affected hip, causing the patient to have greater mobility and less pain.
  • Your doctor may refer you to a physiotherapist for a course of physiotherapy in order to improve hip function and relieve symptoms.
  • Pain medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) help to reduce the pain and discomfort experienced by patients with hip osteoarthritis.
  • There are multiple options for joint injections which can be considered to help relieve pain in the hip temporarily. Some options include,
    • A combination of local anaesthetic and steroids
    • Hyaluronic acid, which aids joint lubrication
    • Autologous blood protein solution

Surgical treatment options

The best option for the treatment of OA of the hip is total joint replacement. This is a procedure in which the hip joint is removed surgically, and replaced with an artificial joint made of metal and plastic.

This option provides a lasting solution for patients troubled by hip pain. Modern implants will last for up to 15 years and allow a patient to return to his activity of choice in most cases.

Surgery is typically conducted in the hospital and will take a couple of hours. Once the patient has recovered from surgery, he or she will be started on a course of physiotherapy as an inpatient. After a few days stay in the hospital, patients can be discharged home to recuperate, or to a rehabilitation facility of their choice.

What can I expect after surgery?

Most patients will have their sutures removed 2 weeks after surgery. The physiotherapy that they were started on as inpatients will usually continue at a physiotherapy center of their choice. Most patients will be able to return to independent walking 2 weeks after surgery. In general, most patients can expect to gradually return to exercise 6 weeks to 2 months after surgery. For assessment of your condition, please book an appointment with Dr Yong Ren

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Sarah Taylor

Obstetrics & Gynaecology