Hip problems affect millions of Americans, and one of the most common issues that causes discomfort in the region is a hip impingement. Hip impingement occurs when there is a change in the surface of the hip joint, which in turns changes how the joint functions. Left untreated, it can lead to pain, stiffness and further damage to the hip joint, which can then lead to the need for more hands-on treatment. In today’s blog, we take a closer look at hip impingement and how a physical therapist can help you overcome the condition.
What Is Hip Impingement?
You may assume that hip problems are reserved for an older population, but hip impingement is actually very common in young, active adults. In fact, the condition oftentimes affects people under the age of 50 and can be a precursor to hip osteoarthritis. There are two common types of hip impingement – pincer and cam.
- Pincer Impingement – This type of impingement can occur when the hip socket begins to angle towards the back instead of forward, or as a result of bone protrusion on the pelvis that deepens the hip socket. Whatever the cause, a pincer impingement can end up pinching the labrum, which is a collection of connective tissue around the edge of the hip socket. This can lead to inflammation, labral tears or the onset of painful bone spurs.
- Cam Impingement – This type of impingement occurs when the shape of the bone around the head of the femur is misshaped. This can be the result of a birth defect, trauma or repetitive strain on the area over an extended period. This misshapen or overgrown bone can irritate the cartilage that lines the hip socket, leading it to become disengaged or causing fraying or tearing of the labrum.
Signs or symptoms of one of these hip impingements include:
- Minor pain that worsens with time or activity
- Pain that radiates to the lower back, groin or buttocks
- More intense pain when squatting, sitting, running, jumping or twisting
- Decreased range of motion at the hip
Diagnosing And Treating Hip Impingement
You can head to your doctor’s office if you suspect you’re dealing with hip impingement, but because physical therapy is typically the most common form of treatment, you can cut out the middleman and head straight to a PT clinic if you’d like. Once you’re there, a physical therapist will ask about your symptoms, review your medical history or images if available, and talk about what actions make pain better or worse. They’ll also likely conduct a hands-on assessment and ask you to perform a few maneuvers to see how your hip responds to these actions. They may order imaging tests to determine the extent of the damage to the labrum or other soft tissues, but it’s not always necessary.
If hip impingement is the diagnosis, your physical therapist will go over the basics of the condition, ask about your daily routine and work to develop a therapy routine that strengthens the area and helps you get back to the activities you do most. The two main goals your PT will work towards is pain reduction and functional improvements. They may work to achieve these goals through a combination of:
- Targeted strengthening exercises, both in clinic and at home.
- Stretching techniques to improve range of motion.
- Movement exercises to improve your balance, coordination and hip stability.
- Hands-on therapy to help restore optimal movement patterns.
- A discussion about how posture and body positioning can help and unknowingly hurt your hip impingement recovery.
- Short-term activity limitations.
- Biomechanical feedback to analyze and adjust gait abnormalities.
- Anti-inflammatory medications or hot/cold therapy to reduce inflammation and make movement exercises more comfortable.
Treated early enough, most causes of hip impingement respond well to conservative care, but if you end up needing surgery, we can also help you recover during this rehabilitation period. For more information, or for help with your hip issue, give the team at OrthoRehab Specialists a call today.