Osteoarthritis of the hip

Osteoarthritis is a long term condition that can affect one or more joints in the body and over time cause pain, stiffness, decreased range of movement in the joint and weakness of the muscles around the joint. It happens when there is breakdown of the cartilage in the joint which causes joint space narrowing. Some people report mild symptoms whereas other people may find their symptoms are severe.

These changes may result in pain, stiffness, loss of range of movement and loss of muscle power.

What are the causes?

Osteoarthritis can affect people of all ages but is more common with people aged 40 and over.

As we get older, many people will encounter osteoarthritis, as the body’s joints go through natural ‘wear and repair’ cycles. Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis and commonly affects the hip or knee joints. Many factors may contribute to having arthritis; obesity, accidents, vigorous sport or a family history may be important. In osteoarthritis (wear and repair), certain changes occur in the joint.

  • The smooth cartilage becomes flaky and develops small cracks.
  • The bone underneath the cartilage becomes denser.
  • The lining of the joint becomes inflamed and may thicken up.
  • Loss of the joint space (narrowing).
  • Formation of bony lumps called osteophytes.

See Versus Arthritis for more detail: https://www.versusarthritis.org/about-arthritis/conditions/osteoarthritis-oa-of-the-hip/


Managing weight is important, therefore a balanced, healthy diet is encouraged. If you are over-weight, reduction of this will be beneficial to your feet to reduce joint over-load whilst a balanced diet is important for your overall health.
Smoking does not help bone and soft tissue repair, so cessation is advised.

See our “Healthy Living” section for more information on local healthy weight and stop smoking services

Pain Relief

Medication (such as simple painkillers or anti-inflammatories) may be useful. A pharmacist or your GP can help advise you what to take if needed. You can find further information here on what medications you could take here:

How and when to take paracetamol for adults – NHS (www.nhs.uk)

Ibuprofen for adults: painkiller which also treats inflammation – NHS (www.nhs.uk)

Activity modification

Activity is encouraged, although adaptation is important. At times, high-impact activities might need to be scaled back. Instead, introduce activities that allow your symptoms to recover but keep you active. Monitoring step count or intensity of walking are ways to modify your activity.


It is important to keep your hip moving through the range of movement that you have. This will help to reduce the chance of the joint getting stiffer and the muscles around the joint from getting weaker. Exercising ‘little and often’ is key. Sometimes exercises may make your pain worse whilst you are doing them. This does not mean that you are causing damage. Try to balance being active and having periods of rest.

There are a range of stretching, movement and strengthening exercises available on the Versus Arthritis website


ESCAPE-pain is a group rehabilitation programme for people with chronic joint pain that integrates educational self-management and coping strategies with an exercise regimen individualised for each participant. It helps people understand their condition, teaches them simple things they can help themselves with, and takes them through a progressive exercise programme so they learn how to cope with pain better.

Courses are currently running free of charge for residents of Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire in the following locations:

  • The Greenway Centre, Southmead
  • Brunel Fitness Centre, Speedwell
  • The Leisure Centres run by Circadian Trust in Bradley Stoke, Kingswood, Longwell Green, Thornbury and Yate.
  • Imperial Sports Ground, South Bristol
  • Age UK Somerset, Weston and Worle
  • North Bristol Trust- Southmead Hospital
  • University Hospitals Bristol and Weston- Bristol Royal Infirmary
  • University Hospitals Bristol and Weston- Weston Hospital
  • Sirona- Cossham Hospital
  • Sirona- Knowle West Health Park
  • Sirona- Marina Health Centre

Please see your healthcare practitioner for a referral. There may be other gyms and leisure centres running ESCAPE courses across BNSSG however these are not free for patients and a charge will apply.

For further information visit the ESCAPE-pain website


How do I decide which treatment is right for me?

Decision support tools are designed to support shared decision making between you and a clinician. You may find they are useful before, during or between consultations depending on your care pathway.

A decision aid is designed to help you decide between treatment options. You should go through it and talk to your healthcare professional.

Making a decision about hip osteoarthritis - decision aid



This video explains the different treatment options for Hip Osteoarthritis that you may wish to consider before total hip replacement surgery.

For translated versions of this video, please click the links below: