Osteoarthrosis of the hip

Osteoarthrosis of the hip is a very common condition. The cartilage in the hip joint becomes damaged, meaning that the joint no longer moves smoothly and the hip starts to feel stiff. The symptoms are usually related to the ageing process.

hip osteoarthritis healthy

This is commonly referred to as wear-and-tear of the hip. Specialists prefer to use the term coxarthrosis.

Description of the condition

The hip joint consists of a ball and socket. Both are covered by a thin layer of cartilage. This acts as a shock absorber and ensures optimum sliding of the individual bone components in the joint. Osteoarthrosis is associated with a deterioration in quality of the cartilage. This results in the joint moving less smoothly and shocks being absorbed less effectively. Wear-and-tear of the cartilage can result in chronic hip symptoms.

Loss of the cartilage means that the bone structures in the joint increasingly come into contact with each other. This is painful and the joint becomes less mobile as a result. In response to this process, the body can starts to form osteophytes. This means that abnormal bony growths occur along the edges of the joint, making the joint wider. By making the joint wider, the pressure is distributed over a greater surface area. This is the body's way of trying to limit the effects of osteoarthrosis.

Cause and origin

The patient is often over the age of 60 years. The symptoms develop gradually and in most cases they have been present for several months. In the end we all develop osteoarthrosis, it is a natural process that forms part of ageing.

Signs & symptoms

  • Stiffness of the hip joint.
  • Morning stiffness; the patient needs to get going in the morning before the worst stiffness disappears.
  • The mobility of the hip is limited in all directions of movement.
  • Maximum passive movements result in a hard maximum movement resistance (bone-on-bone contact).
  • Pressure along the front of the hip joint can be painful.
  • Loss of strength when lifting the leg sideways (abduction).

Trendelenburg's sign is often observed as a result of the loss of strength. The patient has a waddling gait, with the trunk leaning over the affected side.


The physical examination in combination with the patient's story is often sufficient to make the diagnosis. X-rays are only made if there is any doubt about the diagnosis or if surgery is being considered. In the case of osteoarthrosis, joint space narrowing will be visible on the X-ray. In addition, other effects of osteoarthrosis may be visible, such as osteophyte formation.


Damage to the cartilage is irreversible. The treatment is aimed primarily at reducing the symptoms. It is particularly important to keep moving, without overloading the hip. Physiotherapy and manual therapy have both been proven to be effective in relieving the pain associated with hip arthrosis.

If both forms of treatment do not result in further improvement, surgical intervention can be considered. A hip replacement (hip prosthesis) can be performed for severe, increasing symptoms. During this procedure, the ball and/or the socket will be replaced, depending on the condition of each. If the entire hip joint is replaced by a prosthesis, this is referred to as a 'total hip prosthesis'.


To prevent deterioration of the hip due to osteoarthritis, it would be sensible to keep moving and do daily exercises. This keeps the cartilage healthy and the hips fit.

You can check your symptoms using the online physiotherapy check or make an appointment with a physiotherapy practice in your area.

hip osteoarthritis
hip osteoarthritis x-ray joint line

Nugteren, K. van & Winkel, D. (2007). Onderzoek en behandeling van de heup. Houten: Bohn Stafleu van Loghum.
Nugteren, K. van & Winkel, D. (2009). Onderzoek en behandeling van artrose en artritis. Houten: Bohn Stafleu van Loghum.

hip osteoarthritis healthy
hip osteoarthritis
hip osteoarthritis x-ray joint line

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