The symptoms of hip osteoarthritis do not develop overnight; your discomfort and pain will gradually get worse. Over time you will also notice that the stiffness takes longer to ease with movement and that too much activity will aggravate your symptoms. As the condition progresses you will experience pain more frequently, it will last for longer periods of time and eventually your pain will be constant.
Pain will get worse with too much activity and relieved by rest, but complete rest will also cause more pain. Symptoms are worse in the mornings with stiffness in all directions, which takes about 30 minutes to ease. The longer it takes to ‘settle’ or ‘get moving’ the more progressed the hip arthritis has become.
As the condition gets worse you will find that you lose range of motion of your hip, like when you lift your foot to put on your shoes.
In the first stage of hip osteoarthritis you will only have minor symptoms. There could be some osteophytes on X-rays, but often patients will describe their symptoms as discomfort rather than pain. These symptoms come and go and don’t interfere with your daily routine. You could feel some stiffness in the morning when you get up, but this eases as soon as you start moving around. Jogging or running starts causing discomfort.
You will start to notice stiffness more often, like after a long drive or sitting at your desk for a couple of hours. You will experience pain in your groin or buttock at times, but still be able to carry on with your daily routine. Jumping or fast movements like stepping over a puddle become sensitive.
X-rays will show osteophytes around the hip joint, but no narrowing of the joint space.
In the third stage of hip osteoarthritis your symptoms will become more noticeable. You will find that your discomfort has changed to pain which can interfere with your daily activities. You might notice that you start avoiding certain movements or positions, like sitting in low chairs or running. At this stage you will probably also walk with a limp and pain can start radiating to the outside of the hip or down to your thigh and knee. Other activities that cause pain are getting up from sitting, driving for more than an hour brings on the stiffness and you’ll even have difficulty crouching/kneeling.
On X-rays there will be some damage to the cartilage inside the hip joint and we will see narrowing of the joint space.
At this point you will have constant, severe pain that also wakes you up during the night. You will struggle to find a comfortable position to fall asleep in. Walking and climbing stairs will be extremely painful and all movements of your hip will be limited and painful. After walking for awhile you’ll feel that you need to sit down. Your hip will be painful when you get out of bed in the morning and you could notice be locking and clicking of the joint with movement.
On X-rays there will be no visible joint space – which means that the cartilage is worn away – and a large number of osteophytes.