The Pain of a Pinching Hip

A very complex joint in the body, the hip is formed by a ball on the end of the thighbone (femur) that sits in a socket formed by a cavity (acetabulum) in the pelvic bone. The ball is held in place by a very powerful ligament, and both the ball and socket are covered by a smooth layer of cartilage that cushions the joint, allowing the ball to move in the socket with very little friction. Fibrous tissue and cartilage (called the labrum) line the socket rim, grip the head of the femur and anchor it in place.

When the ball does not have full range of motion within the socket, femoroacetabular impingement occurs. It is most commonly caused by overgrown or misshapen bone around the hip joint. The ball’s extra bone hits the socket rim and causes the cartilage and labrum to fray or tear, resulting in pain.

There are two types of femoroacetabular impingement.

  • Cam-type impingement occurs when the excess bone forms around the head and/or neck of the femur. The misshapen bone rubs against the cartilage lining the hip socket, causing it to peel away or become worn, frayed or torn.
  • Pincer-type impingement results from an overgrowth of bone on the socket rim or when the socket is angled in such a way that abnormal impact occurs between the femur and the rim of the socket, causing the cartilage to become worn and form holes.

We will evaluate your hip’s range of motion,test the area’s muscle strength, observe how you move and perform tests to ascertain whether the hip joint is your source of pain. We can even analyze those physical movements that contribute to your hip pain and help you change or eliminate them. In an absence of severe symptoms or joint damage, we can design an exercise program that can decrease pain, improve movement, avoid the need for surgery, strengthen your hips and trunk, improve hip muscle flexibility and joint mobility, teach you healthier body postures for your hip, and help you modify your activity.

Similar to other ailments, the gains of starting a physical therapy program for femoroacetabular impingement early outweigh the pain and discomfort of its being left untreated. Don’t let your hip pinch you—call today to schedule an appointment.