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Runner experiencing hip impingement on a track

Hip Impingement Surgery: Recovery Time and Things to Consider

Sep 25, 2023

The hip joint consists of the acetabulum (the socket) and the femoral head (theball). Normally, these two are perfect matches, and friction is minimal; however, things won’t work as smoothly when the connection is abnormal. Usually, the result will be pain, limited range of motion, and eventually long-term damage.

When the pain lingers, your best action is to go to an orthopedic doctor for an evaluation. In most cases, their first suggestion will be conservative treatment (physical therapy,oral medications, and even steroid injections). If these treatments fail, they might suggest hip impingement surgery.

Here’s what you should know about this including surgery type, recovery time, and more.

What does hip impingement feel like? 

While this may sound like a lazy answer, hip impingement feels like you would expect it to. You feel hip or groin pain and swifness in the area. It all worsens during physical activity, especially hip flexion (i.e sitting) and you have a limited range of motion of your hip.

On top of this, many people report catching or clicking sensations. Unpleasant as it may sound, if you’ve paid close attention to our introduction, it’s pretty clear where the sound is coming from.

Now, there’s a lot of talk about hip impingement causing back pain, and while the condition doesn’t directly cause back pain, it can lead to a compensation pattern that will result in back pain (at least some discomfort). Hip muscles are connected to the lower back, and altered movement patterns (due to discomfort) will only make this worse.

Types of hip impingement

There are two main types of hip impingement based on the location of the deformity. The two major types of hip impingement are:

  • Cam impingement (when the deformity is on the femoral head)
  • Pincer impingement (when the deformity is on acetabulum)

It’s also important to keep in mind the degree of the deformity. If the bone deformity is miniature, arthroscopic surgery is used, where the surgeon inserts small specialized tools to reshape the bone.

    On the other hand, if the deformity is considerable, an open hip impingement surgery may be required.

    Conservative treatment options for hip impingement

    First of all, there are many different forms of hip conditions, so your doctor must first determine if it’s a hip impingement, to begin with, as well as what would be the best course of treatment.

    Their starting suggestion will likely be physical therapy since it can strengthen hip muscles, improve the hip joint's flexibility, and educate you on how your hip works. You would be surprised at what modifications to your movement patterns you can make to make things easier. For this, however, you need the right hip exercises.

    Alternatively, you might want to temporarily modify your lifestyle to avoid exercises that put too much pressure on this area. Maintaining a healthy body weight also helps reduce pressure.

    You could also ask your doctor if you should try an anti-inflammatory medication like naproxen or ibuprofen. This would reduce the inflammation of the hip joint and reduce the pain. Corticosteroid injections are also effective at reducing inflammation but should only be administered by your doctor.

    If none of these hip impingement treatments work, it’s time for the surgery.

    Hip impingement surgery 

    Once it’s determined that the surgery is necessary, you must look for an orthopedic surgeon to perform it. Based on the situation, they’ll decide whether to do it arthroscopicallyor conduct an open surgery.

    Arthroscopic surgery is also called hip impingement bone-shaving surgery and is minimally invasive. The incisions are minimal, and the surgeon shaves the excess bone from the femoral head. It’s also not uncommon for a surgeon to address a damaged cartilage within the hip joint - the labrum.

    Open surgery involves a larger incision, usually reserved for extensive bone deformities.

    Another type of hip impingement surgery is the labral repair or reconstruction. This is the reconstruction of a piece of cartilage that provides stability to the hip joint. This may be damaged in long-standing hip impingement.

    What is the hip impingement surgery success rate? 

    The success rate is one of the main determiners of whether people will choose to go to the surgery. According to the majority of data, the success rate of the surgery is 90.4% at ten years. Now, anyone understanding hip impingement knows this condition can’t heal independently. At best, you can make numerous adjustments to make the condition manageable.

    Of course, there are complications to take into consideration, as well. Like with any other surgical procedure, there’s a risk of infection, nerve damage, and blood clots. Still, these risks are minimal when performed under the right conditions and by specialists. Also, it’s important to point out that these risks aren’t unique to this surgery; they’re an overall risk of any surgery.

    What is the hip impingement surgery success rate?

    While it’s hard to throw a number since we’ve already mentioned that arthroscopic and open surgery is completely different. An arthroscopic surgery usually takes about two hours, and the patient can go home the same day.

    How long does recovering from hip impingement surgery take?

    Again, there are many types of hip impingement surgery, but generally speaking, full recovery from most surgeries will take 4-6 months. After three months, you’ll already see a massive improvement in many sporting activities; after six months, if everything goes according to plan, you might return to your sporting activities.

    The recovery can be facilitated by following post-operative instructions, attending physical therapy, and following a strict weight-bearing progression. Also, remember that, during the recovery, pain management will be incredibly important. So, talk to your healthcare provider about your options and stick to their advice.

    This article was reviewed and approved by an orthopedic surgeon as we place a high premium on accuracy for our patients and potential patients.