Medical Treatment for Osteoarthritis of the Hip

If joint damage caused by osteoarthritis of the hip is mild, arthritis specialists at NYU Langone can recommend effective ways to alleviate symptoms, slow the progression of the disease, and protect the hip joint from further damage. These treatments also help to relieve pain and stiffness, making walking and other movements easier.

Pain Relief Medication

If osteoarthritis of the hip causes aching pain and limits your ability to move without discomfort, your doctor may recommend an over-the-counter pain relief medication. Many doctors recommend acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which include aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen. These medications are taken by mouth and are available at drugstores.

Acetaminophen blocks pain signals that travel from the site of an inflamed joint to the brain, and NSAIDs relieve pain and swelling that occurs when the body’s immune system responds to joint damage caused by arthritis.

Many people find that over-the-counter pain relief medications alleviate aching and stiffness in arthritic joints, making movement easier. Your doctor can explain the risks and recommend a safe regimen for you based on your symptoms, age, and other medical conditions that could affect or interact with these medications.

While acetaminophen is safe in moderate doses, it has been linked to liver difficulty with long-term use. Anti-inflammatory medications may also cause side effects such as high blood pressure, headaches, upset stomach, and kidney disease.

If over-the-counter medications don’t work to relieve pain and stiffness from osteoarthritis within a few weeks, NYU Langone doctors may prescribe a stronger medication.

Activity Modification

Each time you take a step, your hip joint bears the weight of your entire body. Over time, osteoarthritis of the hip causes the joint to become less capable of bearing this weight, and too much stress on the joint makes arthritis worse. By avoiding high-impact activities that put extra stress on the hip joint—for example, climbing stairs, running, or playing tennis—it’s possible to slow the progression of arthritis and relieve pain and stiffness.

NYU Langone doctors don’t recommend avoiding activity because of an arthritic hip joint, however, because regular movement helps the joint to stay mobile and strong. Low-impact activities such as swimming, yoga, tai chi, and cycling can provide a cardiovascular workout without causing damage to the hip joint.

Doctors also recommend maintaining a healthy weight as part of any treatment plan for osteoarthritis of the hip. Losing weight can directly reduce stress on the hip joint, resulting in less pain and improved function.

Our doctors understand that losing weight isn’t easy, and offer nutrition counseling to help you design a weight-loss plan customized to meet your goals and fit into your lifestyle. If it’s appropriate, our experts can also explore surgical options.

Physical Therapy

NYU Langone physiatrists, doctors who specialize in rehabilitation, and physical therapists can help you incorporate simple stretching and strength-building exercises to improve the flexibility, range of motion, and overall function of the hip joint. In particular, building strength in the muscles of the thighs and buttocks provides extra support for your hip and takes some of the stress off of the hip joint when you walk and exercise.

Our team of hip rehabilitation specialists can show you how to do these exercises correctly and design an exercise routine that you can do at home.

Crutches, Canes, and Walkers

If pain and stiffness in the hip joint make walking difficult or impossible, a device to take the weight off of the arthritic hip may help you feel more comfortable. Our doctors can help you select and obtain crutches, a cane, or a walker that is the right size and fit for you.

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