An X-ray showing an arthritic left hip. Compared to the right side, there is reduced joint space (i.e. worn cartilage) with bone-on-bone wear. The ball and socket joint are no longer smooth and congruent.

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative, “wear and tear” condition that commonly causes hip and knee pain. The smooth articular cartilage that covers the joint and provides frictionless movement becomes damaged, and the underlying bone is exposed. This can be painful, and is often associated with swelling (called an effusion). Osteoarthritis is often associated with joint stiffness, and there may well be a deformity of the joint.

Most cases of osteoarthritis have no underlying cause. However, you may be at higher risk of developing arthritis if it runs in your family, as there is undoubtedly a genetic element. There is also an association with being overweight, with heavy manual work and sports, and with previous joint injury or infection. Some congenital conditions (such as Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip; DDH) may also lead to increased risk of osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis generally causes pain, both on exercise and at rest. It may restrict your walking distance, cause limping and affect your daily activities such as washing and putting on socks and shoes.

On the following pages you can find some information about non-surgical treatments of osteoarthritis; as a rule of thumb the right time to consider surgery would be when you get pain at night, you would struggle to walk a mile and you feel that your life is on hold.