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Causes of Hip Arthritis

The hip joint can become worn-out most commonly as a result of osteoarthritis but may also result from other causes such as trauma, infection or other diseases.

Just like a car’s wheel that is not balanced or aligned properly can cause premature tyre wear, a hip joint’s mechanical function can be affected by disease causing faster degeneration.

Cartilage Wear

As the hip cartilage is degraded over time due to osteoarthritis it will not regenerate. This condition typically will not improve over time and can be painful and debilitating. 

Hip Fractures

Fractures around the hip may lead to post-traumatic arthritis requiring hip replacement. Hip fractures are a common injury in people who have osteoporosis.

Femoral Acetabular Impingement (FAI)

Femoral acetabular impingement (FAI) has been suggested as a cause of premature osteoarthritis. This may be the reason we see younger and younger patients developing arthritis.


There may be a genetic tendency in some people to develop osteoarthritis. Abnormalities from some hip conditions can appear in childhood and can lead to earlier degeneration. This mechanical abnormality causes excessive wear and tear

Rheumatoid Arthritis

While Rheumatoid Arthritis’ trigger is unknown, the swelling caused by inflammation of synovial joints can cause pain and ultimately joint degeneration.

Avascular Necrosis

Avascular necrosis (AVN) can cause degeneration of the hip joint. Most cases are without a known underlying cause. Some cases are related to medications such as corticosteroids.  Excessive alcohol consumption can also lead to AVN.

Perthes’ Disease

Perthes’ disease mainly affects children (3 – 11 year olds). The disease softens the femur ball due to a poor blood supply. While most Perthes’ disease sufferers recover and regenerate bone, the disease can leave lasting damage.

Slipped Capital Femoral Epiphysis

Early development problems of the femoral head can give rise to hip problems for patients in their teens. The ball slides out of position causing the leg to turn outward. Contributing factors to this condition including increased hormones and weight gain with age.

Without treatment, slipped capital femoral epiphysis can worsen and the child may experience arthritis of the hip joint in later life.

Dysplasia and Congenital Dislocation

Developmental problems of a newborn’s joint can cause dislocations because of a shallow socket. This form of dysplasia prevents a stable fit. Causes for developmental dysplasia include breech births, family history and other disorders such as spina bifida.

Slack ligaments may also allow the femoral head to slip out of joint.

Ankylosing Spondylitis

While an uncommon form of inflammatory arthritis it can affect hips.

Typical symptoms include pain and stiffness first thing in the morning. Ankylosing spondylitis can occur by itself or in association with other disorders, including Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and psoriasis.

Hip Arthritis Symptoms

  • Pain in the hip joint (particularly in the groin)
  • Pain radiating pain from the hip to thigh and knee
  • ‘clunking’ in the Hip
  • Difficulty walking resulting in a limp
  • Muscle stiffness

The pain is often made worse with simple activity like putting weight through the hip such as when arising from a chair.
Hip pain can also be felt down the front of the leg, and buttock (although pain in this area can also be caused by problems with the lower back). This is called referred pain, and it’s fairly common.

Other prolonged symptoms can include:

  1. Loss of full range of motion
  2. Inability to either bend or fully straighten the Hip
  3. A tendency for your Hip to get "stuck" or lock up
  4. Audible ‘clicking’ or a sense of ‘grating’
  5. Difficulty putting on shoes and socks


Diagnostic methods are:


  • Take a medical history
  • Perform a physical examination
  • Assess the joint’s range of motion

Blood Test – there is no blood test for osteoarthritis

Imaging tests

  • X-rays – show loss of the normal joint space, bony spurs and arthritic cysts
  • MRI – shows the extent of the cartilage wear, and also labral tears.