Femoroacetabular Impingement: What Does It Mean?

Hip pain is a common complaint among athletes and non-athletes alike. However, there are dozens of conditions that can cause hip pain. One common cause of hip pain, called femoroacetabular impingement, or FAI, is a condition that can be very debilitating for people. Because of this, recognizing the common signs and symptoms can help people seek treatment from the appropriate health care providers.

In order to understand FAI, it can be helpful to understand the anatomy and the mechanics of the hip joint. The hip joint is a ball-and-socket joint with the femur (thigh bone) acting as the ball, and the pelvis acting as the socket.

When the thigh moves, it must roll and glide smoothly in order for the thigh to move effectively. If this does not occur, the thigh may be limited in its range of motion. Additionally, other parts of the femur or pelvis may collide with one another, resulting in a significant amount of pain. This is the primary issue with FAI.

FAI can occur with an irregular femur, or an irregular pelvis. The femoral variety is most common in males, while the pelvis variety is more common in females. These two conditions are called cam, and pincer impingement, respectively.

Signs and Symptoms of FAI

  • Sharp groin pain when lifting the thigh towards the chest
  • Sharp groin pain when rotating the knee inward
  • Pain on the outer aspect of the thigh when walking up and down stairs
  • Pain on the outer aspect of the thigh when sitting
  • Difficulty squatting

How is FAI Treated?

Surgery is the primary method of treatment for either type of FAI. During the procedure, surgeons will reshape any misshapen segments of bone that may be present. Once the bones have been reshaped, they are much more likely to roll and glide along one another more effectively.

After the surgery is performed, physiotherapy can be very beneficial. Physiotherapists will provide their patients with a variety of exercises to restrengthen the musculature of the hips, as a large portion of this can be lost with any surgical procedure.

Several manual therapy techniques will also be employed by physiotherapists. Most of these manual techniques are aimed at helping the two bones move along one another more smoothly. These joint mobilization techniques help increase joint space, which can allow the hip to move through its range of motion more easily.

The rehabilitation process following this procedure is not likely to be excessively long. However, individuals should expect to spend six to eight weeks in physiotherapy (with a specialist such as Ascar Egtedar, MD) following the surgery to correct FAI.