Femoroacetabular Impingement (FAI)

X-ray of Hip Joint

Many people experience hip pain. For years it was thought to be either a muscular or arthritic condition. New research shows that FAI is more common than once thought.

What is Femoroacetabular Impingement?

Femoroacetabular impingement is a disease where the ball (femoral head) and socket (acetabulum) rub in a way that they shouldn't, which creates damage to the hip joint. It is a structural abnormality in the hip joint that occurs on the femoral head and the acetabular rim.

There are two general types of femoroacetabular impingement:

Cam impingement, which is a femoral deformity. There is usually a bump on the head-and-neck junction which impinges on the acetabular rim. This basically means the femoral head and neck are not rounded as they should be.Pincer impingement is caused by a deformity on the acetabular side. The acetabulum has too much coverage of the ball or femoral head. This results in the labral cartilage that becomes pinched between the rim of the socket and femoral head-neck junction.

Often, both types of impingements are experienced together.

Who Gets FAI?

Any age group can have FAI. Generally, however, young, healthy, middle aged adults who participate in strenuous athletics are the most likely to contract this disease.

What Damage is Caused by FAI?

Depending upon which type of impingement a person has, they/it can result in cartilage damage, labral tears, sports hernias, and low back pain. If impingement occurs that results in damage to the labrum, many physicians believe this is a contributing factor to early onset osteoarthritis of the hip.

Diagnosis of Femoroacetabular Impingement

The diagnosis of FAI usually starts with a patient complaining of hip and groin pain that is worsened when he/she is sitting. The pain is often described as a dull ache or sharp pain that radiates down the side of the thigh. For a lot of patients, this pain is also accompanied by a popping or clicking in the front of the hip in the groin area. At this point, X-rays very often reveal an impingement; however, if one is not noticed, an MRI or CT scan can reveal a deeper impingement.

Treatment of FAI

Most doctors will want to start with a more conservative treatment such as an anti-inflammatory and reduced physical activity. Some doctors suggest physical therapy, while others believe this type of treatment will aggravate the site further, thus causing more damage and more pain.

If these treatments don't work, an orthopedist should be consulted. He may suggest hip arthroscopy to remove a portion of the bone and stabilize the cartilage or labrum. This procedure is safe and effective in treating FAI. For more pronounced problems, hip replacement may be required. *

*Before any surgery, get a second opinion.

Femoroacetabular Impingement

A proper diagnosis of femoroacetabular impingement can alter a life. It can help take a person from a pain filled existence, to a pain free life after treatment and proper care is given.


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Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be used for diagnosis or to guide treatment without the opinion of a health professional. Any reader who is concerned about his or her health should contact a doctor for advice.


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