The goal of physical therapy for treating hip osteoarthritis is to reduce the pressure that causes the pain and inflammation in the hip joints by strengthening and stretching the surrounding muscles. Apart from the changing the biomechanics, a physical therapy program may also include passive modalities that aim toward treating the joint inflammation.
There are two major components to treating hip osteoarthritis. The first is taking away the inflammation from the joint to alleviate the pain; the other is to make sure we address the biomechanics to take the pressure off the hip so that the inflammation does not return. This generally begins with exercise – with physical therapy, with stretching, with strengthening. We’re looking at the entire kinetic chain, making sure that if the person hyperpronates in their feet – if they have flat feet, that gets corrected with either a custom or over-the-counter orthotic.
We’re looking at the entire gait cycle to make sure that the biomechanics are as good as possible. Along the way with physical therapy and exercises, sometimes we give oral medications in order to help with the pain of osteoarthritis. It is not going to fix the hip osteoarthritis, but it can help alleviate the symptoms while we’re going about addressing the biomechanics. Within physical therapy, there are a number of passive modalities like ultrasound, soft tissue massage, and TENS units, which help to alleviate the symptoms in the moment and also ideally help to alleviate some of the inflammation in the joint.