Femoroacetabular Impingement (FAI): Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Femoroacetabular impingement (FAI) is a hip condition characterized by abnormal contact between the femur (thigh bone) and acetabulum (hip socket) during hip movement. This repetitive friction can lead to damage of the hip joint structures, such as the labrum and cartilage, and may contribute to hip pain and limited range of motion. Here’s a comprehensive overview of femoroacetabular impingement, including its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options:
medical assistant helping patient with physiotherapy exercises


FAI is typically caused by structural abnormalities in the hip joint, which can lead to abnormal movement and impingement. There are three main types of FAI:

  • Cam Impingement: Excessive bone growth on the femoral head leads to abnormal contact with the acetabulum during hip flexion and rotation.
  • Pincer Impingement: Over-coverage of the acetabulum causes the labrum to be pinched between the femoral head and the acetabulum during movement.
  • Mixed Impingement: A combination of both cam and pincer impingement.


Common symptoms of FAI may include:

  • Hip Pain: Typically felt in the groin area or on the side of the hip, especially during activities like sitting, walking, or sports.
  • Limited Range of Motion: Difficulty in flexing, rotating, or fully extending the hip.
  • Stiffness: Feeling of stiffness or tightness in the hip joint.
  • Clicking or Catching: Sensations during hip movement.
  • Painful Activities: Pain worsens with activities that involve hip flexion or rotation.


A healthcare provider will diagnose FAI through:

  • Physical Examination: Assessing range of motion, hip strength, and signs of impingement.
  • Imaging: X-rays, MRI, or CT scans may be used to visualize hip joint structures and assess any abnormalities.

Treatment Options:

Treatment for FAI aims to alleviate pain, improve hip function, and prevent further damage. Options include:

  • Conservative Management: Rest, activity modification, physical therapy to improve hip mechanics and muscle strength.
  • Medications: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Corticosteroid Injections: Injections to provide temporary pain relief and reduce inflammation.
  • Surgery: Surgical intervention may be considered for severe or persistent symptoms. Surgical options include:
    • Arthroscopic Surgery: Minimally invasive procedure to reshape bone and repair or remove damaged tissue.
    • Open Surgery: Traditional surgery for complex cases involving significant bone reshaping.


Rehabilitation plays a critical role in recovering from FAI treatment:

  • Physical Therapy: Targeted exercises to restore hip strength, flexibility, and proper mechanics.
  • Postoperative Care: Following surgery, rehabilitation helps regain hip function and prevent complications.


While FAI may have structural causes, practicing proper hip mechanics during activities and maintaining hip flexibility and strength can reduce the risk of symptoms.


Femoroacetabular impingement (FAI) can lead to hip pain, discomfort, and limited mobility. Timely medical evaluation and appropriate treatment, whether conservative or surgical, can help alleviate symptoms, prevent further damage, and improve overall hip health. If you suspect FAI or experience persistent hip pain or limitations in movement, consulting a healthcare professional is essential for accurate diagnosis and guidance on suitable treatment options.