Hip Osteoarthritis Treatments

There are a number of treatment options, including medications used to treat hip osteoarthritis. Learn more about your options, including NSAIDs, corticosteroids, and other medications for hip OA.

If you have a mild case of hip osteoarthritis, your doctor will encourage you to rest your hip joints. Protecting the joint can slow the progress of osteoarthritis. Limit any activities that may cause pain, such as climbing stairs. If you're an avid golfer, skier, hiker, or runner, consider switching to more low-impact activities, such as cycling, swimming, and weight training. If you are overweight, losing weight can help reduce stress on the hip joint.

Physical therapy may help you increase your flexibility and range of motion, and strengthen the muscles in your hip and leg. Your doctor may recommend you start using a cane, walker or other assistive device to improve your mobility.


Acetaminophen (Tylenol) can help relieve mild to moderate osteoarthritis pain. To avoid rare but serious side effects of kidney and/or liver damage, follow dosing instructions and avoid drinking excessive amounts of alcohol.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are one of the most common medications to treat hip osteoarthritis. Some NSAIDS, such as naproxen or ibuprofen, are available over-the-counter. Others are available by prescription. To avoid unwelcome side effects on your heart, stomach, intestines, and kidneys, take these medications exactly as directed. Patients older than 75 may be advised to use topical NSAIDs applied to the skin instead of a pill because they are thought to cause less stomach bleeding and fewer other side effects.

Corticosteroids (cortisone) are powerful anti-inflammatory drugs that can be taken by mouth or injected into the hip joint. They work by helping to temporarily reduce pain and inflammation in the joint. The effects of corticosteroid shots may not last very long, and patients typically cannot have more than 4 injections in each joint per year.

Opioids such as tramadol (Ultram) may be recommended in only the most severe cases of arthritis-related hip pain.


If your hip pain is severe, significantly limits your activities and does not respond to other arthritis treatments,  you may want to consider surgery for hip replacement. Find an orthopedic surgeon who performs this surgery on a regular basis (as with most surgeries, the more procedures a person performs, the better they are).

To prepare for a hip replacement, you should make sure you have health insurance, time off from work, and finances to cover unpaid leave or medical deductibles or co-insurance.

Most hip replacement procedures are less than 90 minutes. The doctor will remove damaged bone and cartilage and replace them with new metal, plastic or ceramic joint surfaces. Surgery can significantly control your pain, and complications are rare.

But your real work starts with a physical therapist, who can help you rehabilitate your new hip. Within 24 hours of surgery, you'll most likely walk for a few yards. Thanks to pain medications, this will not be so painful, but it will require some effort and exertion on your part.

You'll likely come home from the hospital 3 to 4 days after surgery, where you'll continue your physical therapy for a few weeks. You may need to use a cane, crutches or a walker when you first come home.

Most patients are happy with their hip replacement outcomes, often reporting they slept well for the first time in months the night after their hip replacement surgery. Once their hip osteoarthritis is treated, they can increase their normal activities.

For some patients who are younger and physically active, a procedure called hip resurfacing may be an option. It involves scraping the surfaces of the hip joint and head of the thigh bone (femur) and placing a metal cap over the bone. Much of the bone is preserved, so if needed, a standard hip replacement can be done in the future. The procedure may provide a faster recovery and greater range of motion than a total hip replacement.

Updated on: 11/17/15
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