Hip and Groin Pain? It May be Femoral Acetabular Impingement

If you’re puzzled by hip stiffness or pain in your hip whether you’re very active or sitting for a long period, you may very well have femoral acetabular impingement (FAI), the clinical term for hip impingement. You may even develop a limp because of it. 

Dr. Struan Coleman provides expert treatment for patients with FAI, and as a board-certified orthopedic surgeon, offers a safe surgical treatment option if necessary. 

His clinical expertise, honed by treating professional athletes’ orthopedic issues, prepared him well to treat you, but he’s also a sympathetic and understanding provider tuned into your wellbeing. 

What is femoral acetabular impingement (FAI)?

Your hip consists of a ball-and-socket joint, and FAI occurs when these two components of your joint rub together improperly as you move. As time goes on, you experience damage to your labral or articular cartilage — stabilizing and shock absorbing connective tissues, respectively. 

If there’s no more cushioning capability on your femur’s (the bone that extends from your hip to your knee) head, or your inner joint socket is damaged or worn down, it’s only a matter of time before you start to feel uncomfortable symptoms.  

Though FAI affects athletes frequently, it’s common in other active individuals as well, and many people are born with hip abnormalities that lead to FAI.

Multiple ways that FAI develops

Depending on the physical abnormality in your hip, FAI manifests in three forms: 

Pincer impingement happens when excess bone extends over the rim of your acetabulum, your cup-shaped hip socket; this condition puts your labrum at risk of being crushed.

Cam impingement is the result of the inability of your femoral head to rotate in your acetabulum because it’s abnormally shaped. Eventually, a knob develops on the edge of your femoral head that pulverizes the cartilage inside your acetabulum.

Combined impingement occurs when you suffer from both pincer and cam impingement.

Even though these different types of FAI develop, they all cause pain and mobility problems, unfortunately. Some hallmarks of FAI are pronounced pain in your groin or in the front part of your thigh, and hip pain. You may also feel a catch in your hip periodically. 

Pain is exacerbated by bending at your waist, like you do when riding a bike, bending over to pick something up, and as we mentioned before, sitting for an extended period of time. It may also be difficult to climb or descend stairs, do activities like hiking, and simply get up from a chair. 

Can FAI be treated successfully?

Thankfully, it can, but it’s critical that you’re in the care of an orthopedic expert like Dr. Coleman. When you visit our office, Dr. Coleman records your medical history and pain level trajectory in detail. Initially, he takes a conservative approach to treatment and typically recommends refraining from activities that make your FAI worse. 

Physical therapy is a powerful muscle strengthening tool that improves your range of motion. Dr. Coleman also prescribes corticosteroid injections when needed, as they reduce your swelling and pain for a period of months. 

Should your case of FAI warrant it, Dr. Coleman may suggest hip arthroscopy, a surgical solution for FAI that has many benefits:

Arthroscopic surgery is specifically for joint-related problems, and Dr. Coleman provides an excellent description of hip arthroscopy here

After hip arthroscopy

After your surgery, you use crutches for a couple of weeks, and as time goes on, you gradually increase the amount of weight you can put on your hip and your activity level. Full recovery takes about 3-6 months, but hip arthroscopy allows you to return to normal life and, most importantly, do all the activities you love without discomfort. 

If you think you’re suffering from FAI and want to learn more about treatments like hip arthroscopy, call the office most convenient to you for an appointment or reach out to us on our website.  

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