Hip impingement is a condition where the ball and socket of the hip joint do not fit together as they should. In serious cases, surgery can repair the joint and resolve symptoms.

The medical term for hip impingement is femoroacetabular impingement (FAI). This condition is due to an abnormal shape of the hip joint that allows the femur (thigh bone) and the socket to rub together.

Doctors treat FAI with rest, methods to reduce inflammation, and surgery.

Here’s more about what surgical options help with hip impingement, how these procedures are done, and what to expect during recovery.

Symptoms of FAI include limping along with pain and stiffness in your hip joint.

This pain may be felt most in the groin when twisting or squatting. Some people have sharp pain, while others experience more of a dull ache.

Mild FAI can be treated with noninvasive methods, which may include:

When the damage is severe, your doctor may suggest surgery to repair the hip joint itself and reduce friction.

Without treatment, people with FAI may develop osteoarthritis in their hip joint, leading to chronic pain and reduced mobility. It can also lead to arthritis or a labral tear.

But some people may have already developed hip osteoarthritis from impingement. If this is the case, hip impingment surgery may not be the best option, and they may instead need a hip replacement.

A qualified doctor can help you determine the best treatment option for you.

The goal of surgery is to restore the ball and socket shape of the hip so that it has a perfectly round sphere shape, and the socket is a perfectly round bowl.

Surgical options include arthroscopic hip surgery, which is a minimally invasive procedure. While you are under general or spinal anesthesia, your doctor will make a small incision and insert a tiny camera into your hip joint. The images allow your surgeon to perform the surgery using miniature surgical tools.

Traditional open hip surgery may help in the most severe cases. A large incision allows your doctor to visualize the entire joint to assess and repair the damage.

FAI is relatively common in the general population. Around 10-15% of adults deal with the condition.

It is also common in adolescents, especially those who are involved in athletics.

In fact, the prevalence of FAI in athletes of all ages may be as high as 55%.

Your doctor may suggest you avoid all weight-bearing activities, like walking, for between 2 and 6 weeks after your surgery. You may use crutches or a walker while you recover.

Your return to walking will happen in stages.

period after surgeryactivity recommendation
first 3–4 weeksphysical therapy (PT) to work on passive range of motion (non-weight bearing)
4 weeks beginning active range of motion, like standing and light walking
4–8 weekscontinued strengthening and gait training
8–12 weeksstrength training in the hip and core, balance work, and proprioception
12 weeks and beyondincreased weight-bearing activities, like jogging and jumping

It’s important to speak with your surgeon and follow their rehabilitation plan, as they recommend.

There isn’t much long-term data on hip impingement surgery. Initial studies show good results for both arthroscopic and traditional surgeries.

Many people are able to return to their regular activities after their recovery period. Some may need to trade high impact activities for lower-impact exercises, depending on the extent of the damage prior to surgery.

Complications after hip surgery, particularly arthroscopy, are uncommon.

They may include:

When to seek medical care after hip surgery

You will likely see your doctor for regular follow-ups after your surgery. Contact your doctor if you experience complications or have other concerns that cannot wait until your scheduled appointment.

Also, be on the lookout for infection within the first 30 days after your surgery. Make an appointment with your doctor if you notice:

  • warmth around your incision
  • pus or other drainage around your incision
  • fever or generally feeling unwell
  • increasing pain
  • issues with wound healing
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Total recovery time from surgery is individual and may take as long as 12 weeks or longer.

Recovery time will depend on the type of surgery you had, the extent of the damage before you had surgery, and other factors that affect your overall health.

Steroid injections may help as a therapeutic way to deal with any pain.

You don’t need to live with hip pain. If you are experiencing stiffness, aching, or other issues in your hip joint, contact your doctor. Various nonsurgical options may help prevent serious damage. If the condition is more advanced, surgery is both safe and effective and can help you get back to the activities you love.