Hip impingement is a disorder that affects your hip joint. It is a medical term used to describe the abnormal forward displacement of the femur head on the acetabulum (socket) of the hip. This causes a lot of pain in the hip and can lead to chronic problems such as 1 and hip instability.
Hip impingement can be caused by a number of factors, including genetics, previous injuries, and abnormal muscle attachments in the hip socket. People who participate in sports that require a lot of sudden stopping and starting may also be more prone to developing hip impingement.
In this article, we will discuss the symptoms, causes, and treatment of hip impingement, as well as its potential side effects.
Hip Impingement Symptoms
The symptoms of hip impingement can vary depending on where the impingement is located and how severe it is. The most common symptom is pain in the hip, which may radiate down the leg or into the groin. Other symptoms include:
- Swelling of the hip
- Swelling and redness of the labrum
- Stiffness or restriction of movement in the hip
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is recommended that you see a doctor. Hip impingement can be diagnosed through an examination of your hip joint and surrounding tissues.
Causes of Hip Impingement
The causes of hip impingement are not fully understood, but it is believed that there are a number of factors that can contribute to the development of this condition.
Hip dysplasia; To understand hip impingement syndrome, it’s important to know what causes impingement of the hip. Impingement happens when the gluteus maximus (the largest muscle in the buttocks) and/or the gluteus medius (the smaller muscle that runs alongside the gluteus maximus) are pinched between the rim of the acetabulum (the socket of the hip) and the femur (thighbone). This impinges the femoral nerve, which exits the pelvis through the femoral triangle (area around the hip) to supply the buttocks and legs.
Impingement is the result of one or more of the following:
- Hypermobility (e.g., due to dysplasia or a developmental anomaly) – Tightness in the surrounding muscles – Nerve impingement
Stretched hip muscles; As people age, their hip muscles can become stretched, causing them to lose their normal strength. This can lead to impingement, since the muscles can’t provide the support the joint needs to operate normally.
Tight groin/coccyx muscles; This is the most common cause of hip impingement. Tight muscles in the groin and tail bone area (coccyx) pull on the pelvic floor and, in turn, the hip joint. Tighter muscles can also cause tailbone (coccyx) pain, a very common cause of hip impingement.
Groin nerve impingement; This occurs when the ilioinguinal nerve, which enters the pelvis through the groin, is impinged upon by the femoral condyle or acetabulum. This causes a condition called femoral neuropathy, which results in a dull, aching pain in the region.
Risk Factors of Hip Impingement
There are many risk factors, but one that often goes overlooked is the amount of stress that your hip muscles are under. Many people (including athletes) will overtrain certain muscles based on the intensity of their sport, causing them to become overdeveloped. Overdeveloped muscles are often tight, causing you to feel pain when you use them. This can cause athletes who frequently overtrain certain muscles to develop overuse injuries, such as the hip impingement that we discussed above.
Diagnosis of Hip Impingement
If you have pain in your hip that does not seem to be getting any better, it is recommended that you see a doctor. A complete medical evaluation will involve an assessment of your hip as well as an examination of your hip joint. This will allow the doctor to determine the cause of your symptoms and make any necessary recommendations for treatment.
Hip Impingement Treatment
Hip impingement doesn’t need to get in the way of your active lifestyle. With the right treatment, you can return to your normal routine with minimal discomfort. Here are five simple steps to treating hip impingement.
1. Warm up before you exercise
- Warming up will help prepare your body for exercise. It helps your muscles get ready to work, while also increasing your range of motion.
- Warm up with low-intensity exercise. Spend 15 minutes doing some low-intensity aerobic activity, such as gentle jogging or bike riding, before you move onto more intense exercise.
- Warm up with stretching. Hip impingement isn’t just a pain in the groin; the condition can cause tightness in the upper hip and groin areas, which can lead to further pain and inflammation.
- Warm up with some gentle stretching to loosen your hip flexors. Try to stretch out your hip flexors for 10 minutes before you begin your workout. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds and relax for 30 seconds.
Warm up with some low-impact exercises. Jogging, hiking, or other high-intensity exercise can lead to increased muscle tension and tightness in the surrounding area. Switch to low-impact activities, like swimming or yoga, to help reduce your risk of developing hip impingement.
2. Strengthen your hips and groin muscles
Strengthening your hips and groin muscles can help improve hip impingement. If your condition causes your groin to be tight and painful, strengthening your hips and groin can help loosen your hip flexors and loosen your hips.
Strengthen your hips. Use tools like weighted vests, resistance bands, exercise balls, or hand weights to strengthen your hips. Try to do exercises targeting your hips and buttocks (your “core”) every day.
Strengthen your groin muscles. Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you and your toes on the floor. Keeping your back straight, slowly pull your buttocks in and up towards your thighs.
3. Learn some hip-friendly exercises
When your hips are in pain, it’s easy to avoid certain movements. You might avoid lunging or squatting, or you might avoid certain movement patterns during calisthenics or other types of exercise that don’t require you to actually move from your hips. But avoiding these movements can make the pain worse.
When your hip is impinged, it’s important to maintain normal movement patterns. For example, when doing a deadlift, you should keep your back straight and your knees behind your toes. Avoid shifting your weight back and forth, and avoid locking your knees.
Even while you’re moving around and doing normal activities, you can still benefit from these exercises. Try to do these hip-friendly movements, or drills, three times a day while you’re treating your impingement.
4. Experiment with different foot positions
Hip impingement often occurs when a person stands or walks for long periods of time with their feet in a forward, flat, or weight-bearing position. This often causes the hip to internally rotate, or turn in, which can further damage the soft tissue.
Try different foot positions. Instead of standing or walking with your feet in the same position, try walking or standing with your feet more angled inwards or outwards.
If your impingement causes you to internally rotate your hips, doing exercises while your feet are in a more setback or flexed position can help you avoid this. Try these exercises while your feet are in the setback position:
- Leg press
- Leg extension
- Sissy squats
- Sit ups
- Leg curls
Do these exercises while your feet are in the flexed position:
- Standing leg curl
- Standing toe raises
- Step ups
5. Protect your hips with hip protectors
If you have hip impingement, it’s important to wear a hip protector while you’re training. A hip protector is a pad or wrap that you use when you do certain exercises that can put a lot of pressure on your groin.
Wear a hip protector when you deadlift or do heavy squatting. Wearing a hip protector will help reduce the pressure on your hip and groin, allowing you to train harder and longer.
If you’re training at home, use a Smith machine or a power rack to deadlift. Alternatively, use a trap bar to do overhead pressing exercises, like presses and rows.
If you’re training at a gym, try to use the squat rack or the lifting platform with less weight. Alternatively, use the smith machine or power rack to lift.
6. Stretch to ease your hips and groin
Stretching can help to reduce your risk of developing hip impingement. It can also help to treat the condition if it develops.
Stretching can help to improve blood flow and reduce muscle spasms in your hip flexors and groin muscles. A study found that participants who stretched three times a week experienced significantly reduced hip impingement symptoms compared to those who did not stretch.
Hip impingement can be a painful condition, but it doesn’t have to keep you from your favorite activities. With the right treatment options, you can return to your normal routine without missing out on too much.
Your first line of defense against hip impingement is to get your hip moving again. Start with gentle stretching, and then slowly build up your activity level. Use a foam roller or roller bag to help massage out your hip, and protect your hips with a hip protector when you’re training with heavy weights.
If you have hip impingement, it’s important to take care of it so your hips can stay happy and healthy. The first step is to identify the cause of your impingement and then take steps to treat it.