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Can you suggest any exercise that will not make my severely damaged joints worse?
Aug 30, 2011

In assessing arthritis of the hips the most important symptom is pain. Pain which may only appear after prolonged or strenuous exercise, pain which may appear at walking at normal pace for short periods (less than a quarter of a mile), or more serious pain when it occurs at rest. The severity of the pain can be quite intolerable at times, yet at other times may only be associated with mild discomfort.

When trying to measure the pain, the doctor will also look to see how restricted the actual movements of the hips are. X-rays can also be helpful. However, there is not an exact relationship between symptoms and x-ray changes. By this I mean that there can sometimes be very severe x-ray changes with very little pain and sometimes the pain can be troublesome even though the x-ray changes are very mild.

You state that you have difficulty walking and have not been getting too much exercise, but have now joined an aqua aerobics class. I think this is a most sensible approach to your condition. Exercises in water are enjoyable, therapeutic and, in your case, very important to try to increase the mobility of the hip joint.

Part of the disease process of osteoarthritis is shrinkage of the actual joints with tightening of the capsule around the hip. There is also muscle weakness and wasting. it is very important to try to improve all these structures by exercise and any non-weight bearing exercise may help if pain does not get too severe during the actual movements. Static cycling on an exercise bike might also help and passive and active stretching, aided by a physiotherapist experienced in dealing with osteoarthritis of the hip, would also be beneficial.

In the long term if the pain becomes intolerable, you should be considered for a total hip replacement, but the longer this procedure can be delayed the better. If the pain at rest persists and there is significant disability, e.g. in dressing, you should request an up-to-date x-ray and, through your family doctor, the opinion of an orthopaedic surgeon.


This CAREGiver Q&A has been provided by Arthritis Ireland. For more information please visit the Arthritis Care section of our website and download a copy of Caring for a Person with Arthritis.