Woman holding her hip in pain

Hip impingement, also known as femoroacetabular impingement, involves a structural or mechanical issue with one’s hip joint and can affect people of all ages.1,2,3 In fact, this condition commonly affects active teenagers and young adults. This condition causes increased friction in the hip joint that can wear it down and cause pain in the short term and extensive damage in the long term.

This article will explore the early signs of hip impingement to help hip pain sufferers recognize the symptoms and seek treatment as soon as possible. It will also discuss how this condition can lead to arthritis if untreated due to cartilage being broken down and worn away with repetitive use

What Is Hip Impingement?

The human hip naturally allows for the top of the thigh bone to connect to the hip socket so that it can move smoothly in the socket.4 This smooth movement is facilitated by a smooth layer of cartilage that prevents bones from grinding on each other and to secure the thigh bone in its place.5

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But in individuals with hip impingement, these bones do not move together smoothly and pain results.2,3 Deformities at the ball at the top of the femur and deformities of the hip socket are two common causes of hip impingement.

Early Symptoms of Hip Impingement

Many people who have hip impingement do not experience any symptoms at all in the very early stages of the disorder. But over time, individuals may begin to notice a limited range of motion in the hip and stiffness in the front thigh region and in the groin. Other individuals may notice a clicking or popping sensation in the hip joint during movement.

Although many hip conditions affect elderly adults, this one is most common among active people under the age of 40.6,8 Once symptoms are felt, it is likely that some cartilage damage has already occurred.

How Can Hip Impingement Lead to Arthritis?

People who have arthritis, as well as those who do not, can develop hip impingement. However, an untreated condition of hip impingement is actually a common cause of osteoarthritis.7

This is because hip impingement causes cartilage damage that is characterized by this painful form of arthritis. Hip impingement is often considered to be a pre-arthritic condition, which means that further damage may be prevented before the cartilage damage is very severe.8

The Importance of Early Detection

It can be very difficult to diagnose hip impingement, but early detection is the key to preventing osteoarthritis for many patients. A physician will typically conduct a physical exam to test the hip’s range of motion and order an x-ray, CT scan, or MRI to further inspect the health of the hip joint.9

When hip impingement is detected early, it may be possible to manage the condition by simply reducing certain physical activities and trying physiotherapy or injections. Many people with hip impingement pain use topical arthritis creams, such as JointFlex, to relieve their pain quickly and throughout the day. However, surgical intervention may be recommended for more serious cases of hip impingement, especially arthroscopic treatment to correct an impingement deformity.

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1. Pun, S., Kumar, D., & Lane, N. E. (2015 January). Femoroacetabular impingement. Arthritis and Rheumatology, 67, 17-27. October 25, 2018 from National Center of Biotechnology Information https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4280287/.
2. Hip impingement. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Retrieved October 25, 2018 from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/orthopaedic_disorders/hip_impingement_22,HipImpingement.
3. Femoroacetabular impingement. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Retrieved October 25, 2018 from https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases–conditions/femoroacetabular-impingement/.
4. Hip. Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved October 25, 2018 from https://www.britannica.com/science/hip.
5. Funiciello, M. (2011 August 12). Hip anatomy. Arthritis Health. Retrieved October 25, 2018 from https://www.arthritis-health.com/types/joint-anatomy/hip-anatomy.
6. Boone, G. R., Pagnotto, M. R., Walker, J. A., Trousdale, R. T., & Sierra, R. J. (2012 October). Caution should be taken in performing surgical hip dislocation for the treatment of femoroacetabular impingement in patients over the age of 40. HSS Journal, 8, 230-234. Retrieved October 25, 2018 from National Center of Biotechnology Information https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3470673/#Sec1title.
7. Zhang, C., Li, L., Forster, B. B., Kopec, J. A., Ratzlaff, C., Halai, L., Cibere, J., & Esdaile, J. M. (2015 December). Femoroacetabular impingement and osteoarthritis of the hip. Canadian Family Physician, 61, 1055-1060. Retrieved October 25, 2018 from National Center of Biotechnology Information https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4677941/.
8. Dooley, P. J. (2008 January). Femoroacetabular impingement syndrome: Nonarthritic hip pain in young adults. Canadian Family Physician, 54, 42-47. Retrieved October 25, 2018 from National Center of Biotechnology Information https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2293316/.
9. Kuhlman, G. & Domb, B. G. (2009 December 15). Hip impingement: Identifying and treating a common cause of hip pain. American Family Physician, 80, 1429-1434. Retrieved October 25, 2018 from https://www.aafp.org/afp/2009/1215/p1429.html.