Most of us learn in elementary school that the human body has 206 bones. We start with more, but some of them have fused together by the time we reach adulthood. Others merely work together in a variety of ways, connected by muscles, tendons, and ligaments so that our bodies can twist, bend, crouch, and move in all kinds of ways. When you think about the enormous amount of activities humans are capable of, our bodies begin to seem kind of miraculous – all those parts working together in tandem to complete both simple and complex motions.

Of course, our bodies are also fragile, as many of us discover when we get cuts, scrapes, bruises, torn muscles, broken bones, and other injuries. When we abuse our bodies or suffer illnesses or accidents, parts that used to work fine can stop functioning properly. Hips are essential to our most basic movements, such as sitting, standing, and walking. When something goes wrong with a hip, it can not only impact mobility, but affect the ability to lead a normal life.

Hip impingement is a condition that can worsen over time, causing pain and limiting motion. What is hip impingement? What are the symptoms and what causes it? What can you do if you are diagnosed with this disorder? Here are a few things you need to know.

What is Hip Impingement?

First you should know that the hip consists of two bones that work together. This ball-and-socket joint is made from the pairing of the femur, or thigh bone, and the pelvis, with the rounded top of the femur fitting into the cupped socket provided by the pelvis. Many movements, including sitting down, standing up, squatting, and of course, walking and running, rely on functional hips.

Hip impingement occurs when the smooth motion of the ball in the socket is somehow impeded, and there are two different types of hip impingement: cam impingement and pincer impingement. The first is due to a misshapen femur, whereby the rounded head is irregularly shaped and doesn’t fit properly in the socket. The second is due to a misshapen socket in the pelvic bone, leading to similar results.

In some cases, patients could suffer both forms of hip impingement, but the results are the same – the deformity on one end or the other means that the ball part of the joint doesn’t enjoy free movement within the socket, potentially leading to pain and limited range of motion.

Causes

Hip impingement is caused when bones don’t form properly, and it often begins in childhood, even though many adults don’t realize they have hip impingement until years later. When bone doesn’t develop properly in childhood, it can cause the deformities that are responsible for hip impingement, including bone spurs on the femur, the pelvis, or both.

Because of the cushioning provided by cartilage in the joint, symptoms may not appear for many years, or may never appear, depending on how the cartilage wears. When symptoms do begin, it is often because the cartilage has worn or has become damaged. Hip impingement may also be caused by Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease, where the hip joint doesn’t receive enough blood; by a separation of the ball joint from the femur (most often in children and adolescents); or by Coxa Vara, again in children, where the femur and the ball joint grow at different rates.

Symptoms

As the condition progresses, common symptoms that start to occur are pain and stiffness in the hip or groin region, along with a limited range of motion. It is likely that pain will worsen with time, and if the condition goes untreated, it often leads to the onset of osteoarthritis. Early on, pain and stiffness may be associated with intense activities like running or jumping, but with time, even walking or sitting still could result in pain symptoms.

Treatments

There are several forms of treatment you should discuss with your orthopedic doctor in Richmond VA when you are diagnosed with hip impingement. Early diagnosis offers the best prognosis for treatment, which begins with resting the affected hip and paying attention to movements that cause pain in order to avoid them if possible, as a way to reduce further damage to the joint and cartilage.

Often, physical therapy is prescribed to strengthen surrounding muscles that support the bones and the joint. Anti-inflammatories may also be used to treat intermittent pain symptoms. In severe or worsening cases, surgical options could become necessary. However, many people remain active with hip impingement for years without surgery. It will depend on your body, your type of hip impingement, how advanced the symptoms are, and other particulars of your case.