Signs of Arthritis in the Hip

Updated February 21, 2017

Arthritis in the hip is caused by wearing down or destruction to the cartilage found in the hip joint. Treatments such as restricting activity, walking with a cane, losing weight, NSAID medications and injections to the hip area are all treatments for arthritis of the hip that can help if the condition has not become too advanced. In order to avoid hip replacement surgery, it is important to recognise signs of arthritis in the hip early to avoid the progression of the condition. The are pain, limping, unusual sensations, creaking and limited mobility.


Pain is the most common sign of hip arthritis, and determining where the pain lies is a good indication of whether you are suffering from true arthritis or another condition, such as bursitis or a pinched nerve. Rather than being felt on the side of the body or the buttocks, you experience hip pain in the groin area, extending downward into the thigh all the way to the knee. The pain extends downward in this way because the hip, thigh and knee are all served by the same major network of nerves. In some instances, those with hip arthritis report only feeling pain in their knee; however, if pain is felt in another location, including the side, buttocks or lower back, the pain is most likely caused by a problem with the back rather than the hip.


Hip arthritis is typically caused by repeated stresses to the hip joint over time, which result in a deterioration of cartilage. As the stresses mount over time, pain may progress to a physical change in the body. The first of these is typically a limp, that results from stiffness in the joint as well as a fear of increasing pain with the pressure of taking a step. This leads you to favouring one leg over the other. Often, this limp does not begin noticeably and may come and go, but with time, it will steadily become a more obvious and constant sign of hip arthritis.


Along with a limp, another sign of hip arthritis is a sensation experienced by some that one leg is markedly shorter than the other. In a small part, this is due to the compression of cartilage which does function to move the leg bone higher into the socket. This is usually not enough of a change to feel noticeably different; rather, this perception of unequal leg length is usually caused by the compensation necessary to withstand the discomfort associated with hip pain. Over time, patients begin to stand with the affected hip jutted forward, which causes the opposite hip to raise upward. This results in the sensation that the leg on the upward-raised side feels longer. When patients begin to complain that one leg suddenly feels shorter than the other, it is a good indication that hip arthritis is in play.


As cartilage begins to diminish, the leg bone may strike bone as it moves within the hip socket. This can result in an obvious creaking sound when you walk or move the leg. In addition, when you stands from sitting, a louder crack can be heard. This is especially true when you stand up from being seated on the floor or in a position you have been in for an extended period of time. Many patients with hip arthritis state that this creaking phenomenon is more common in the early morning and at night, though as the condition worsens, it may become more constant.

Limited Mobility

The stiffness caused by hip arthritis may have an affect on patient's mobility. Patients often complain that routine tasks that involve bending over, like trimming toenails, putting on shoes or stooping to pick something up have become difficult. In addition, patients with arthritis of the hip may notice that it is difficult for them to spread their legs when sitting, laying down or standing. They may also find that the length of their gait also becomes shorter.

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About the Author

Faith Davies has been writing professionally since 1996, contributing to various websites. She holds an LAH insurance license in the state of Pennsylvania and has experience as a bank branch manager and lending officer. Davies graduated cum laude from the University of Pittsburgh with a Bachelor of Arts in art history.