Femoroacetabular Impingement Syndrome, or hip impingement, is a condition that occurs when the ball and socket of the hip joint do not properly align. As a result, they grind into each other instead of gliding, which can cause pain, decreased range of motion, and wearing down of the joint. However, by strengthening the muscles of the hip and core, it is possible to decrease these symptoms, and get some relief from the pain.
A hip impingement is a potentially painful and stiff condition that limits the femoroacetabular (aka hip) joint. Hip impingements are due to a structural problem with one of the two parts of the joint, namely the ball (which is the round head of the femur/thigh bone) and the socket (a concave hole in the pelvis that allows the ball to glide through it). An impingement can come in two types: a cam type, which affects the ball, or a pincer type, which affects the socket. Sometimes both can be present.
Hip impingements can start off with no symptoms at all. However, as the malady progresses, the patient may experience discomfort in end ranges of the movement (i.e., bringing the knee up toward the chest or stretching the leg all the way back). If the issue is not addressed, the pain progresses until it becomes painful at rest due to excessive irritation of the joint.
In both the pincer and cam types of impingement, a deformity causes the ball and the socket to bump into each other instead of gliding, causing pain. The grinding can cause an inflammation of the joint, or even arthritis of the hip if allowed to continue for too long. The loss of range of motion will become greater as time goes on as well, as the joint develops wear and tear from the constant grinding.
Many impingements are a result of bone structure from birth. Over time, this becomes exacerbated with activity. While exercise does NOT cause this malady, improper movement patterns and poor technique may cause the structural issues to get worse, as the bones grind up against each other in the joint.
As with many other painful joint conditions, getting your weight down is a critical step in decreasing the forces flowing through your hip. Remember, when you run or walk briskly, you are not just carrying your body weight, but a multiple of up to five times your weight, depending on how fast you are going. By decreasing your weight via a healthy diet and PAIN-FREE exercises (muscle burn is good, pain is bad), you can decrease the painful shock forces flowing through your hip.
The best way to treat a hip impingement is to strengthen the hip and core muscles surrounding the joint. Having core stability is important because you need to provide support for the pelvis, which hold the “socket” for the ball of the hip. In addition, it is important to provide stability and support for the hip joint by strengthening the gluteal muscles, especially the posterior glutes, aka the “side butt.” While it cannot correct the deformity entirely, this will help absorb the shock forces and decrease the progression of the degeneration.