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A patient guide to femoroacetabular impingement

A patient guide to Femoroacetabular Impingement

For many physically active people, particularly professional or recreational athletes or footballers, the hips can come under a lot of pressure, bearing very high loads during the repetitive motions and abrupt changes in direction required on the track or pitch.

One of the most common causes of hip pain in sportspeople is hip impingement, or femoroacetabular impingement (FAI). FAI is a condition in which the bones of the hip joint - the ball (femoral head) and socket (acetabulum) – are abnormally aligned, causing friction between the bones and subsequently damaging the cartilage and causing joint degeneration over time.

The condition is usually caused by extra bone which has grown along one or both of these ball-and-socket bones, giving them an irregular shape, which then affects their ability to fit together. FAI may begin developing at birth or during the teenage years, but mostly affects those between 20-50 years of age.

There are three variations of FAI, depending on where the extra bone growth has occurred:

  • Pincer – where the extra bone extends beyond the normal rim of the socket joint, crushing the cartilage during movement
  • Cam – a bump forming on the edge of the ball joint, preventing it from rotating smoothly inside the socket, impacting the edge of the cup and grinding the cartilage
  • Combined – a combination of pincer and cam types

Symptoms of hip impingement

If you’re engaged in high impact sport of any kind and are experiencing a stabbing pain or stiffness in your hip or groin area, or a locking or catching sensation in your hip joint, you could be suffering from femoroacetabular impingement.

You may likely experience pain following participation in sporting activities or after sitting for long periods. It is important not to ignore these symptoms, as FAI has been associated with the development of secondary hip osteoarthritis.

How is a hip impingement Diagnosd?

If you are experiencing any of the aforementioned symptoms and suspect you may be suffering from FAI, you should book an appointment with a healthcare professional – either your own GP or one of our Private GPs. They will take a full medical history and conduct a physical examination in the first instance, manipulating your hip joint to examine its movement.

You may then be referred for an X-ray, which can usually confirm FAI. For access to our range of private tests, scans and examinations at Benenden Hospital, you’ll need a referral from a healthcare professional. This could be your own GP, through our Private GP service or from a Consultant, Physiotherapist or Osteopath. In some cases, a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) or Computed Tomography (CT) scan may be ordered.

At our CQC rated Outstanding hospital, we offer a range of tests and scans in our modern Imaging suite, so you can receive a fast diagnosis. Take advantage of 0% finance on selected diagnostic tests between £350- £999. Our payment plans, offered through our trusted partner, Chrysalis, mean you can fit your repayments into your monthly budget rather than having to find the full cost at the time of your treatment.

Treatment for hip impingement?

Treatment for FAI will likely begin with nonsurgical methods, which may include rest, physiotherapy or the use of painkillers or anti-inflammatory medication. You may be referred to Benenden Hospital’s team of Physiotherapists, who can help by producing a treatment programme. This may include a range of strengthening and stretching exercises tailored to your condition.

In some cases, your doctor may suggest injecting medications or other substances directly into your joint. For example, a Cortisone steroid injection. This treatment involves injecting a steroid (cortisone) directly into the joint in order to reduce inflammation and relieve pain in a joint caused by injury or arthritis and allow you to move the affected joint much more comfortably and easily. The treatment can relieve pain symptoms for several months.

If a nonsurgical approach isn’t successful in alleviating symptoms, you may need a referral to one of our Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeons for an arthroscopy. This is a form of laparoscopic (keyhole) surgery used to explore and treat conditions within your joints.

Outlook for hip impingement surgery

There are many factors which can affect the speed of recovery from surgery for FAI: the type of surgery performed, the age of the patient and the level of joint degeneration.

According to a 2018 article published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, 74% of athletes return to the same competitive level of sports participation following femoroacetabular impingement surgery.

Get active again by accessing our private treatments

If you’ve been struggling with pain or discomfort as a result of any of the symptoms discussed, don’t hesitate to get checked out by your GP, book online for fast access to a face-to-face private GP or Physiotherapy appointment.

Published on 29 March 2023