Femoroacetabular impingement is when the bones in the hip socket gring against each other. Discover treatment options.

Do you have hip pain when you pull your knees to your chest, walk uphill, or get in and out of a car? If your hip hurts after sitting for a while, you may have something called hip impingement.

The condition is officially called femoroacetabular impingement, or FAI for short. Let’s break down what this means.

What Causes Femoroacetabular Impingement (FAI)?

Your hip is a ball and socket joint. The ball, or the part of the joint at the top of your thigh bone, is the femoral head. The socket, which is part of your pelvic bone, is the acetabulum.

Cartilage holds your hip joint together, sealing and stabilizing the bones so they can move smoothly.

With FAI, there is a mismatch in the shape of the ball and socket. This mismatch happens because there is extra bone growth in either the ball or socket. As a result, the bones touch and pinch each other (impingement), which causes pain.

FAI also causes your hip bones to rub against the cartilage, which damages it. You can also wind up with a labral tear. The labrum is the ring of soft tissue that surrounds the hip socket.

Hip impingement limits your range of motion — which limits what activities you can do. Over time, it can also lead to osteoarthritis.

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How Do People Get FAI?

Teenagers, active young adults, and athletes are most commonly diagnosed with FAI. Sports and being active won’t cause hip impingement. Active people may pay better attention to how their bodies typically feel, thus are more likely to notice hip pain.

Sometimes children are born with hip conditions that can lead to FAI. Other times, FAI begins to develop as a child grows. Genes and family history may also play a role.

You can’t necessarily prevent FAI, but there are several ways to treat it. Specialists can diagnose FAI with a physical exam and request imaging tests to confirm. They will then offer treatment options to reduce pain.

Treating FAI: Is Surgery Always Necessary?

The short answer is no; not everyone with FAI will need surgery. People who see a specialist for FAI usually do so because they’re in pain. So the first goal is to help reduce pain.

Rest and anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen, can help you manage pain. So can physical therapy because it can help you strengthen supporting muscles.

If you have joint damage, an orthopaedic surgeon may suggest doing arthroscopic surgery. This procedure uses tiny incisions and a small camera (called an arthroscope) to look inside your hip joint. The surgeon repairs the cartilage damage and carefully shaves off the excess bone using the scope and small instruments.

Some people will need periacetabular osteotomy (PAO) or open surgery (meaning a traditional incision). Through PAO, a surgeon can reshape and reposition the bones in your hip joint. PAO can help prevent or delay hip replacement surgery for older adolescents and younger adults.

Remember, not all hip pain is FAI. Other conditions, like hip dysplasia and avascular necrosis, can also cause hip pain. So can overtraining, muscle imbalances, and pulled ligaments.

Sometimes all you need is rest. But if moving your hip hurts and the pain is getting worse, not better, consider seeing a doctor to test for femoroacetabular impingement.

It’s quick and easy to connect with a UMPC orthopaedic expert near you.

With specialists in each type of orthopaedic injury and condition, UPMC Orthopaedic Care has the experts to cater to your specific needs. Visit the Hip Preservation Program website to learn about treatment of both mild and severe hip-related problems, including FAI.

Sources

Femoroacetabular Impingement. OrthoInfo. Link.

About UPMC Orthopaedic Care

When you are dealing with bone, muscle, or joint pain, it can affect your daily life. UPMC Orthopaedic Care can help. As a national leader in advanced orthopaedic care, we diagnose and treat a full range of musculoskeletal disorders, from the acute and chronic to the common and complex. We provide access to UPMC’s vast network of support services for both surgical and nonsurgical treatments and a full continuum of care. Our multidisciplinary team of experts will work with you to develop the treatment plan that works best for you. Our care team uses the most innovative tools and techniques to provide better outcomes. We also are leaders in research and clinical trials, striving to find better ways to provide our patients care. With locations throughout our communities, you can find a provider near you.