Friction and pain-free movement of the hip joint requires the joint cartilage on the femoral head and acetabulum to be intact. A variety of factors can cause wear or damage to the protective cartilage layer, known as coxarthrosis.
In healthy hip joints, the joint cartilage forms a smooth surface and thus friction between the joint surfaces is kept to a minimum.
In the case of coxarthrosis, however, the joint cartilage initially loses its elasticity, although the patient is unaware of this. The surface of the cartilage becomes rough in the areas subject to the greatest loads and, over the course of time, is completely worn away. The bony surfaces of the joint now rub against each other which can ultimately result in deformation of the femoral head and acetabulum.
Pain and Restricted Movement
If the joint surfaces rub against each other without the protective layer of cartilage, this will result in pain. Initially, the patient only notices the pain when the joint is loaded, yet over the course of time, pain is increasingly experienced when the joint is not loaded, particularly at night. The most pain is experienced in the groin area but can also radiate to the front of the femur.
The pain and subsequent muscular tension compromise articulation of the joint: since the hip joint plays a key role, particularly in day-to-day activities such as sitting and walking, patients are increasingly restricted in their everyday lives and experience diminished quality of life. Even putting on socks and shoes, climbing the stairs or getting out of bed can become a challenge.
Pain Relief Options
Depending on the nature of the pain experienced, the attending doctor will at first try conservative methods to ease the pain. These include pain relief and anti-inflammatory medication, physiotherapy, baths and packs. These help to reduce the pain and improve joint mobility.
However, there is currently no proven method for curing hip osteoarthritis. Therefore, if all conservative measures do not lead to pain relief, the use of an artificial hip (hip arthroplasty) is recommended by the surgeon.
The bone structure of many elderly people is no longer as stable as it once was, for example due to osteoporosis.
Consequently, a fall can cause the femoral neck to fracture more easily: The femoral bone breaks at its weakest point – at the femoral neck just below the femoral head. In such cases, hip endoprosthesis surgery is frequently performed, often only implanting a partial endoprosthesis.