Tips for Athletes Living With Hip Impingement

Hip pain can affect anyone of any age. It’s more common among people who lead very active lives, especially those who put a lot of repetitive strain on their hips or their legs in general. Many problems can cause hip pain, but one of the most common causes is a condition called femoroacetabular impingement (FAI), otherwise known as hip impingement. Hip impingement is a motion- and position-dependent problem - the more you flex and rotate your hip, the more likely symptoms such as pain or stiffness may pop up. Common exercises that may cause pain include deep squats and lunges. Common sports and positions that may exhibit pain include baseball catchers, hockey goalies, specific aspects of high-intensity interval training, yoga pigeon pose, among countless others.

Hip impingement is a major cause of hip arthritis, and it can cause significant pain and stiffness. These symptoms can have a major effect on anyone who suffers from them, but they can take a huge toll on active athletes. As a leading orthopedic surgeon in Houston, Texas, Dr. Joshua Harris provides state-of-the-art treatment for hip impingement, including minimally-invasive arthroscopic surgery to relieve symptoms and improve hip function.

Living with FAI

As an athlete, physical activity is a big part of your life. But if you have FAI, lots of physical activities wind up making your painful symptoms worse — a lot worse. Here are some ways you can relieve your FAI symptoms and maintain the active lifestyle you love.

See your doctor early

The longer FAI is undiagnosed and untreated, the more damage it can cause. Ultimately, that can mean you’ll need more aggressive treatment to relieve your symptoms and preserve your joint. Having early treatment may prevent arthritic damage in the joint.

Look into physical therapy

Physical therapy uses exercises to strengthen the muscles surrounding your hip, helping to relieve some of the tension and strain on the joint. Reducing stretching, especially deep flexion and rotation, may also significantly help. This is contrary to what tradition and dogma has taught most of us - however, for the hip, stretching often either does nothing or makes the pain worse. “No pain, no gain” does not apply to the hip in many ways. Therapy can be tailored to your specific needs and even your sport, helping to relieve your symptoms while focusing on better joint health and function in the future.

Modify your activity

Sure, you love your sport, but is there an alternative that puts less strain on your hips? Don’t skip your warmup routine, either. Add in a regular walking routine to keep your hips limber. And make sure to add strengthening exercises for your core muscles so they can help take some of the load off your hips. 

Use pain relievers

For very mild symptoms, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs — also known as NSAIDs — like ibuprofen may help relieve both pain and inflammation. Use them as directed, and if they stop providing you with relief, ask Dr. Harris about prescription medicines that could help.

Understand your surgical options

While some mild FAI symptoms can be alleviated with the nonsurgical options listed above, more severe cases may need surgical intervention. Dr. Harris uses minimally-invasive surgical techniques for smaller incisions, less post-op discomfort, and faster recovery. While surgery can be very useful in providing symptom relief, it’s typically only considered once nonsurgical options have proven ineffective or in people with severe symptoms or advanced FAI.

You don’t have to live with hip pain

FAI is just one type of impingement problem that can cause hip pain. There are other types of hip impingement beyond traditional FAI (called cam or pincer or both): these include subspine impingement, ischiofemoral impingement, trochanteric-pelvic impingement, iliopsoas impingement, and pectineofoveal impingement. What’s more, impingement is only one possible cause of hip symptoms. Plenty of other problems can cause pain and stiffness in the hips, which is why seeing Dr. Harris at the first sign of pain is so important.

As a top hip pain specialist in Houston, Dr. Harris is skilled at diagnosing the cause of hip pain, so treatment can be targeted and customized. If you’re having pain, stiffness, or other symptoms involving your hip, call Dr. Harris at 713-244-6395 and schedule an office visit to learn what’s causing those symptoms — and how to make them go away.

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