A femoroacetabular impingement (FAI), more commonly known as a hip impingement, occurs with abnormal wear and tear between the ball and socket of the hip joint. When your hip is impinged, you can expect increased friction that continues to damage the joint; when tis happens you can expect pain, even when at rest or sitting for a long while. Hip impingement is often confused with other orthopedic hip ailments. Here is what you need to know about hip impingement – what it is and how best to treat it.
A Lesson in Anatomy
To understand what a hip impingement is, you have to understand the anatomy of the hip joint, where the thigh bone and pelvis meet. The thigh bone has a ball-like top that rests in the pelvis’s cup-like area – similar to how a baseball fits into a glove. Generally, the ball-like top of the thigh bone moves with ease, thanks to the cartilage in the joint. When a hip impingement occurs, the cartilage is damaged to the point that there is no protective buffer, causing the bones to rub against each other.
Hip impingement can occur for a variety of reasons, some of the most common of which are:
- Deformities – A deformity with the thigh bone’s ball can cause it to fit abnormally in the pelvis’s socket; this deformity could be a birth defect or the result of an accident, illness or injury.
- Overuse of the hip, whether from sports or an active lifestyle, or sitting too long, can cause this issue. In fact, sitting is a major contributor to hip impingement when we sit, the hip is bent, causing the ball to sit unnaturally at the joint.
- Legg-Calvé-Perthes Disease – A congenital disorder that presents in childhood, LCPD is caused by the disruption of blood of blood to the femur. This lack of blood causes the bone to wither and stop growing, which can lead to hip impingement when the bones no longer sit comfortably in the joint.
- Coxa Vara – This rare condition affects children and causes the thigh bone to grow at an unnatural pace that doesn’t match the rest of the body’s growth. When this occurs, the ball end of the thigh bone does not fit properly in the joint because it is either too small or too big for the joint.
Unfortunately, hip impingement does not show symptoms immediately. Many patients do not even know they have an impingement until the condition has significantly progressed and damage has occurred. Pain in the groin is one of the first symptoms that alerts patients to a possible hip problem. This pain happens typically when the patient uses the hip extensively (say, after a hard workout or vigorous walk) and will gradually become more prominent even with less vigorous activities, eventually, even when sitting for long periods at a time. Hip impingement can cause chronic pain, as well as a decreased range of motion and flexibility.
Treatment for a hip impingement will depend on the cause of the condition and the extent of the damage. For mild cases due to overuse, doctors recommend rest and modification to your lifestyle to avoid irritating the joint further. Doctors may also recommend taking anti-inflammatory medications to reduce inflammation at the joint. Additionally, it can also help to do physical therapy and exercises recommended by your doctor to strengthen the muscles at the hip; this can reduce pain and take some pressure off the joint. In cases where these treatment methods fail, surgery may be recommended. Fortunately, hip impingement is often treated arthroscopically, which reduces the amount of trauma to the joint and surrounding area as well as the recovery time required to heal.
If you are interested in seeking treatment for hip pain, consider Dr. William Hefley. Dr. Hefley is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon with specialization in knee, hip, and shoulder surgery as well as sports medicine and stem cell/PRP therapy. Dr. Hefley’s Little Rock practice not only serves the people of Arkansas, but patients have traveled from around the United States to seek his care. If you are looking for the best orthopedist in Little Rock, or anywhere, call Dr. Hefley at 800-336-2412 to make an appointment today. You can also request an appointment online.