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Femoroacetabular Impingement

Femoroacetabular Impingement: Symptoms, Treatment, & Recovery

Femoroacetabular Impingement, also called FAI, occurs when the bones of your hip joint pinch against the cupped area of the hip, called the acetabulum. This may lead to damage of the cartilage surrounding the acetabulum and cause pain as well as stiffness. Ultimately, this may also cause arthritis.

Additionally, there are two main types of hip impingement:

  • Cam impingement – occurs when the femoral head is not perfectly round
  • Pincer impingement – occurs when the femur bone bumps the rim of its deep socket

These types of impingement can also be present simultaneously.

What Causes Femoroacetabular Impingement?

Femoroacetabular Impingement often occurs from repetitive activity that involves the recurring movement of the legs and hips. Twisting, bending, and extending legs beyond the normal range of movement, in sports such as football, soccer, hockey, tennis, dance, and so on, may contribute to the development of this condition. 

Abnormal hip shape, particularly of the femoral head or neck, may lead to cartilage and labral damage over time, resulting in Femoroacetabular Impingement. 

Femoroacetabular Impingement Risk Factors

Risk factors of Femoroacetabular Impingement include an abnormal hip shape, present from birth. Athletes that participate in sports with frequent bending or twisting may also develop an abnormal hip shape over time, making sports and untreated injuries of the affected areas the main risk factors.

Symptoms of Femoroacetabular Impingement

An individual with Femoroacetabular Impingement may experience:

  • Hip area stiffness
  • Difficulty going up stairs
  • Loss of balance
  • Pain in the hip or groin, especially after sitting for long periods
  • Lack of range of motion in the hip
  • Difficulty bending

How is Femoroacetabular Impingement Diagnosed?

Femoroacetabular Impingement may be diagnosed through a physical examination. If the range of motion of the hip joint appears impeded, or there is reason to suspect that you may have Femoroacetabular Impingement, imaging such as an x-ray, MRI, or CT can be performed.

Treatment for Femoroacetabular Impingement

Femoroacetabular Impingement may be treated surgically or non-surgically.


Conservative treatment such as rest and stopping certain activities may be first tried in some cases. You may also be prescribed anti-inflammatory medication or injections to reduce swelling, pain, and inflammation. Following that, physical therapy may also be recommended. 


In cases where non-surgical routes do not result in recovery, or the injury is more severe, surgical intervention may be the only course of action. Minimally invasive treatments such as arthroscopic surgery are most common and can correct deformities, genetic or acquired. For more complex Femoroacetabular Impingement scenarios, an osteotomy can be performed instead. This involves cutting a portion of the bone to allow for proper joint realignment. Additionally, due to the open nature of the surgery, a surgeon can clean and sculpt the socket of the joint for a smoother fit.

In rare cases, individuals with Femoroacetabular Impingement may need a total hip replacement.

Femoroacetabular Impingement Recovery Time

Recovery from Femoroacetabular Impingement varies depending on the treatment, but the most common surgical method results in several days of recovery in the hospital. Full recovery may take 3-6 months until returning to unrestricted activity. Recovery often requires the use of crutches. 

How Can I Prevent Femoroacetabular Impingement?

It may not always be possible to prevent Femoroacetabular Impingement. For those born with a misshapen hip, treatment is the only option. Otherwise, rehabilitation after an injury and monitoring intense training can go a long way in preventing the development of hip-related injuries.

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