Femoral Acetabular Impingement (FAI) Treatment: What to Expect

Femoral Acetabular Impingement (FAI) Treatment: What to Expect

Do you ever consider what your hips allow you to do? As the largest of your body’s weight-bearing joints, they accept the weight of your body while enabling you to rotate your legs, move them back and forth, and swing them outward and inward. This comes in handy when you want to walk or run, dance, or jump to make a basket on the court.

Unfortunately, a hip malady with a tongue twister name — femoral acetabular impingement, or FAI for short — can develop, causing painful symptoms and limiting mobility.

Dr. Struan Coleman has treated everyone from sports pros to everyday FAI sufferers. His expertise, dedication, and caring demeanor combine to make him a trusted provider.

How is FAI diagnosed?

Complaints that point to the signs of FAI typically put you on the road to getting diagnosed. 

Unpleasant FAI symptoms include:

Initially, you may experience FAI pain only when you’re active, but, eventually, the pain can become unrelenting. These symptoms may also lead to problems walking, using the stairs, and getting up from a chair. Sitting for long periods, like when working at a desk, can also become agonizing. 

Though any single symptom may not lead Dr. Coleman to suspect FAI immediately, if you come to him with a combination of these symptoms, it’s likely that he’ll arrive at a diagnosis of FAI. Imaging tests may also help him make a definitive diagnosis. 

Understanding FAI through an anatomical lens

To understand FAI, it’s helpful to know how your hip, which is a ball-and-socket joint, works. The femoral head is located at the upper portion of your thigh bone and forms the ball, while the socket, or acetabulum, is part of your pelvis. Each is protected by cartilage, which is flexible but strong connective tissue.

FAI develops when the femoral head and the acetabulum rub together abnormally as you move. This causes damage to either the labral cartilage, which lines your acetabulum, or the articular cartilage that allows your hip ball-and-socket to glide smoothly together. 

You may suffer with the Cam form of FAI if the head of your femur is malformed, or you might be affected by the Pincer form, where FAI stems from your hip socket covering too large a part of the upper portion of the femur. 

Getting help for FAI — and what happens afterward

When Dr. Coleman treats you for FAI, he often initially recommends simply resting and lowering your activity level to give your hip a break. 

Physical therapy also helps by strengthening your core and gluteal muscles and improving your range of motion. Corticosteroid injections can provide relief too.

In terms of post-treatment side effects, physical therapy may cause pain and swelling, which can be eased by taking over-the-counter pain medications and either icing your area of pain or going back-and-forth with cold and heat treatments. 

After a corticosteroid injection, you might notice tenderness and swelling at the injection site, known as a cortisone flare. These side effects usually dissipate after a few days but can be helped by rest and the intermittent application of cold packs. 

If these treatments fail to solve your FAI symptoms, Dr. Coleman may suggest a minimally invasive surgery called hip arthroscopy. During this procedure, Dr. Coleman revises the shape of either the Cam or Pincer areas of your hip, and he can also mend labral tears so you can move normally again. He does this by using a small camera — an arthroscope — that he inserts through a small incision into your hip joint. 

The arthroscope allows Dr. Coleman to view your hip on a monitor so he can work with specially designed, narrow surgical instruments that fit through the small incisions he makes to gain access. This type of surgery hastens healing and causes less pain, bleeding, and scarring for the patient.

After returning home from hip arthroscopy, you’ll probably use either a walker or crutches to help you move around initially, but if your FAI was more severe, you may have required a more complex surgery, which necessitates using a walking aid for a couple of months. You’ll also take a combination of over-the-counter and prescription pain medications. Try to be careful about letting your hip bear weight after your surgery too. 

Just as Dr. Coleman creates treatment plans that are tailored to each patient, he also takes care in creating rehabilitation plans that fit each patient’s circumstances and support full recovery.

Call our New York, Locust Valley, or Philadelphia office to schedule a consultation with Dr. Coleman if you’re suffering from FAI, or reach out to us through our website

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