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Hip FAI Diagnosis, Treatment, and Recovery

Reviewed by Dr. David Crawford

The hip is a ball and socket joint. It is made up of the femoral head and the acetabulum (the socket). The cartilage inside the joint protects the bones from rubbing together, which could lead to experiencing pain.

Hip impingement, also known as femoroacetabular impingement (FAI), is a condition where there is damage to the labrum or articular cartilage in the hip joint.

If you are experiencing hip pain, schedule an appointment with JIS Orthopedics today. We have offices conveniently located in New Albany and St. Clairsville, OH. Our hip specialists can help address any hip pain concerns that you may have!

Causes of Hip Impingement

Hip impingement occurs when there is deformity either in the ball part of the hip joint, called the femoral head, or the socket, known as the acetabulum. This is why the condition is also referred to as femoral acetabular impingement. There are two main causes of hip impingement: cam impingement and pincer impingement.

Cam Impingement

Cam impingement occurs when there is a deformity on the head of the femur bone. If the ball is not round, it can get jammed in the hip while the hip is bent.

Pincer Impingement

Pincer impingement occurs if the front rim of the socket sticks out too far. During normal hip flexion, the femoral neck (the part below the head) can jam on the rim.

There can be some instances where there is a problem with both the ball and the socket. The following are some of the other causes of hip impingement.

Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease

Legg-Calve-Perthes disease can cause hip impingement. This disease causes restricted blood flow to the hip and the bone can eventually die.

Slipped Capital Femoral Epiphysis

Slipped capital femoral epiphysis (SCFE) can occur in growing children, particularly when they are obese. The femoral head can separate from the rest of the femur at the growing end of the bone.

Coxa Vara

Coxa vara is a very rare condition where the femoral head and the rest of the femur grow at different rates, which leads to deformity.

What Are the Symptoms of Hip Impingement?

The main symptoms of hip impingement include pain in the groin area and a decreased range of motion in the hip.

It’s possible to have hip impingement for many years without showing any symptoms, as it often does not cause pain in its early stages. When it does start to cause pain, the condition is referred to as hip impingement syndrome.

Symptoms may begin with pain when hip flexion reaches its upper limits. Over time, the pain may be felt during activities such as sitting down for extended periods or walking up a hill.

If you have pain at night or while walking on flat ground, this may be a sign that the cartilage is wearing away. This could also be an indication that you have started to develop osteoarthritis.

How Can Hip Impingement Be Diagnosed?

Your orthopedic doctor will use several diagnostic methods to determine if you have hip impingement.

First, your doctor will want to know what symptoms you are experiencing. Then they will perform a physical examination, testing your hip’s range of motion. And finally, they may request that you undergo some imaging tests.

Your orthopedic doctor may use the following imaging tests to diagnose hip impingement:

  • X-rays give a detailed image of bone structures. The images can show if you have any irregularities in your femoral head or the acetabular rim.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans are able to show soft tissue. These scans can show if there are any tears in the cartilage, including the labrum and articular cartilage.
  • CT scans produce a detailed image of the layers of soft tissue. These scans help your doctor determine whether you will need surgery.

How to Treat Hip Impingement Pain

To treat hip impingement pain, you should start with non-surgical methods to keep the pain under control. The following treatment options can help manage your hip impingement pain:

  • Rest: Resting may give some relief if you have overworked your hip joint.
  • Modifying your activities: Try changing your daily activities to limit hip movement.
  • Exercise: Some exercises can be done at home to strengthen the muscles that support your hip.
  • Physical therapy: A physical therapist can give you specific exercises to help strengthen your hip muscles.
  • NSAIDs: Anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen, can help reduce pain and inflammation.

If non-surgical treatments do not help in relieving pain, then your orthopedic doctor may recommend surgical treatment. The following surgical treatments are available for hip impingement:

  1. Hip Arthroscopy: Arthroscopic surgery is a minimally invasive surgery that is used to treat hip impingement pain. Small incisions are made to access the damaged cartilage.
  2. Hip Replacement: A hip replacement procedure may be necessary if the cartilage damage is severe.

Treat Your Hip Pain Today!

If you are experiencing hip pain, schedule an appointment with JIS Orthopedics today. We have offices conveniently located in New Albany and St. Clairsville, OH. Our hip specialists are ready to help you relieve your hip pain!


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