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Femoral-acetabular impingement

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Your options for healing from hip impingement

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with hip impingement, your first step toward healing is to understand what it is and what you can do about it. We're here to help you every step of the way.

What is femoral-acetabular impingement?

Femoral-acetabular impingement (FAI), also known as hip impingement, is a deformity of the hip joint that limits the joint's normal range of motion. The ball and socket of the hip joint can conflict with each other, pinching the tissue in between and causing damage to the hip joint.

Though it can be caused by trauma to the hip or by the repetitive movements of certain athletic or work-related activities, FAI typically occurs from bone overgrowth in the femoral head and/or the hip joint socket.

FAI can affect athletic young adults, as early as age 15, and adults up to age 50.

What are the symptoms of femoral-acetabular impingement?

  • A locking, clicking or catching sensation within the hip joint

  • Difficulty putting on socks or shoes

  • Difficulty walking uphill

  • Lower back pain

  • Pain or aching in the back of the pelvis, buttocks or side of the hip (usually in the groin area), often after walking or prolonged sitting

FAI symptoms are often confused with other sources of pain, such as back pain, testicular pain or sports hernias.

How is femoral-acetabular impingement diagnosed?

Diagnosis is based on your health history, symptoms and a physical examination by your doctor. Typically, an X-ray will confirm your diagnosis. Additionally, an MRI can evaluate the extent of soft tissue injury in your hip joint. A CT scan may also be used to illustrate the precise shape of your hip and to guide surgical decisions.

How can femoral-acetabular impingement be treated?

  • Nonsurgical treatment for hip impingement
    Often, the first course of treatment is to modify your activity and prescribe anti-inflammatory medications. Once your diagnosis is confirmed, you may elect to have a cortisone shot in the hip, physical therapy for significant tendonitis or surgery.

  • Surgical treatment for hip impingement
    If damage to your hip cartilage has been established, you will be less likely to respond to nonsurgical treatment. Surgical options can range from minimally invasive outpatient surgery, known as hip arthroscopy, to total hip replacement. In select cases, there are surgery alternatives such as surgical dislocation of the hip or a combination of limited open surgery and arthroscopy.

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