How to fix hip impingement without surgery
Have you been suffering from a hip impingement and want to learn how to fix a hip impingement without surgery?
I suffered with pain from a hip impingement for a good year and a half or so before I started making significant improvements. I’m a physical therapist and thought I was doing the right things to help make my hip better but it wasn’t until I drastically changed my fitness routine that I started to see significant changes.
In this post, I’m going to share with you my story of dealing with a hip impingement and what I did to drastically reduce my symptoms in hopes of helping you if you have been dealing with something similar.
With this post, I am talking to people who have seen a medical doctor and been diagnosed with a hip impingement. The symptoms of a hip impingement can be similar to other conditions that are serious and would require immediate medical attention. If you have hip pain, make sure to see a doctor to rule out any serious causes of pain.
What is a hip impingement?
I always think that it’s important to have a basic understanding of your anatomy so that you can better understand what you’re dealing with so let’s start here.
The hip joint is a ball and socket joint. In this way the hip joint is very similar to the shoulder joint if that helps you to visualize it better. The femoral head is the “ball” pat of the hip joint and the acetabulum is the “socket” part of the hip joint. This is why the medical term for hip impingement is “femoroacetabular impingement, ” also known as FAI. Between this ball and socket is something called the labrum. The labrum is basically cartilage which keeps the hip joint stable and allows the hip joint to move smoothly.
Hip impingement can occur in both women and men. One of the most common symptoms associated with FAI is pain in the front of the hip or in the groin with a motion called hip flexion. Hip flexion is when you lift your leg up (like you’re aiming to bring your knee in toward your chest). Hip flexion occurs with squatting motions as well.
The pain you experience from a hip impingement is basically from the labrum being pinched with certain motions of the hip joint. Overtime, if the labrum is constantly being pinched, it can start to break down which eventually may lead to arthritis in the hip joint. This “impingement” happens due to the structure of your hip joint, some of us are structurally more prone to deal with a hip impingement. While you cannot change the structure of your hip joint without surgery, you can change how your hip joint is aligned (how the ball sits and moves in the socket) which can significantly improve your symptoms.
Of course, some cases of a hip impingement may require surgery but I do think that many can avoid surgery.
This is why I’m going to share with you how learned to fix my hip impingement without surgery.
My story of dealing with hip impingement
So you guys want to know how I first injured my hip? Well it happened during sex. I’m being open and honest but I won’t go into too much detail because you guys don’t need to hear that lol. Since a hip impingement is really from your anatomy, this was probably going to happen at some point anyway but yes the moment of the pain saying, “Hi,” was during sex. I share this because as many of you probably know, I’m a pelvic floor specialist and I don’t think we should be afraid to talk about sex. If you hurt your hip having sex, don’t be afraid to seek help, it has definitely happened to others, me being one of them.
Ok, so now you know how it happened. The first week after I injured my hip I mostly just allowed myself to rest as it was inflamed and irritated and rest is what is usually needed directly after a musculoskeletal injury.
My pain got better after that week as expected when the inflammation comes down. I attempted to self treat for about a month (as physical therapists do) and when it didn’t get better I went to have physical therapy from someone besides myself. My treatment consisted of manual therapy and working on glute activation because my glute on the injured side was very weak and wasn’t activating properly, which is pretty common with a hip impingement.
I have a free glute activation guide if you’re interested. You can access this guide by clicking here.
For anyone dealing with a hip impingement, I highly suggest going to physical therapy as it can be very helpful in your healing process.
So after probably a month of physical therapy, my hip did improve to the point where I felt like I could do everyday tasks without pain but I still wasn’t back to how I felt before.
- I still couldn’t practice vinyasa yoga because many poses caused the pinching pain in my hip.
- I was still limited with sex because many positions would increase my hip pain.
- I also experienced on and off flares where the pain would spike for a few days. When the pain would flare I’d have difficulty with more everyday type tasks like getting in and out of the car or putting my shoes on.
Over the next year or so I continued exercising doing cardio and light resistance training. Then I injured my lower back which was associated with nerve pain going down the same leg as the hip injury. This flared my hip injury as well and I went back to physical therapy. Again, it helped get me back to functioning without constant nerve and hip pain but I still was not feeling great. Now on top of my hip flaring on and off, my nerve pain would flare-up as well.
At this point, I didn't think I'd be able to fix my hip impingement without surgery, but I was soon proved to be wrong.
Where things started to change for the better..
At this point in my story, we are at probably at about a year and a half after the initial injury. This is when I decide I want to weight train seriously.
I made this decision for two reasons:
- My husband Scott (boyfriend at the time) was making fun of me at the gym, out of love of course. He said something along the lines of, “You never really push yourself and keep using the same weight without progressing.”
- I wanted a nicer butt….I mean, I don’t support making aesthetics your number one goal but I’m just being honest guys. This was before I went all yogi so I still had some serious self love work to do but we’ll save that for a different day.
So this is where my mind was at in this point in my life and is what made me want to weight train. The decision really had nothing to do with my hip. When I started this fitness journey, I honestly didn’t know how I was going to do it because my hip pain was still constantly flaring up and I was scared that lifting heavier weights would irritate my hip. But I figured I might as well try and told myself that I would progress and push my weights (to prove Scott wrong lol) but I would do it slowly. I want to emphasize that again, I increased the weights I was lifting but I progressed SLOWLY.
In my weight lifting routine, I trained total body but because my my goal as I said before was to have a nicer butt…I did lots of glute work. By lots of glute work I want to make sure you understand that I was still training in a smart fashion because overtraining is a real thing. You can over do it. I was weight training lower body and glutes 2-3 times per week. When I say glutes I mean both the gluteus maximus (the main glute muscle that most of us think of) AND the gluteus medius (outer hip muscle). Much of my glute training was also compound exercises which really works the total lower body.
On my lower body days, I would do glute activation exercises still to warm-up but then I would legit weight lift. Improving your glute activation before you lift weights is important but guys at this point I had been working on my activation for like a year, my glute activation was fine but the actually strength was lacking.
Prior to this point when I would “weight lift,” I kind of just went through the motions on the machines and Scott was right, I didn’t really push myself. I changed this and started to slowly progress the amount of weight I was using. I didn’t push through pain because I do not recommend that but I pushed my muscles to be challenged. I finally even got the courage to use the squat rack to squat and deadlift.
And guess what? After a few months of training, one day I took a step back and realized I hadn’t had a flare of my hip pain or nerve pain in a while. And yes, I liked how my booty was looking but that was nothing compared to the joy I felt at not experiencing flares of my hip pain.
What’s crazy is since I am a physical therapist, I knew all along that glute strengthening is helpful in many cases of hip impingement, but I guess my glutes needed to be a lot stronger than I was allowing.
I don’t know exactly how long it was before I was back to my normal but I would say I think I noticed the first changes in like 3 months and maybe around 6 months I felt that my hip was no longer limiting me.
I was able to go back to practicing vinyasa yoga and I found that I was able to actually go into poses that I hadn’t been able to do in 2 years. And I’m sure you’d love to know, my hip was no longer limiting me with sex either.
4 years later..
Since I started training it’s probably been about 4 years. If I had to give it a percentage, I would say I’m about 98% better. I’m not going to say 100% because there are times occasionally where I will feel discomfort in my hip but if I do it’s usually minimal and doesn’t last long. Usually if this does happens it’s because I’m slacking on my training. Like when COVID started, I wasn’t going to the gym and had minimal home equipment and to be honest I wasn’t as consistent with my workouts, so I did start to feel my hip bothering me a little bit. So I started making sure I was doing the strengthening I needed to keep my hip happy and it was better again.
I’m not saying everyone with a hip impingement is the same, there are common themes seen with this diagnosis but we are all individual complex beings. You have to find what works best for you and your body.
I share my story with you because I was at the point where I was super frustrated and if you feel that way know that it can get better. You never know where you will find healing. I have been shown this multiple times.
I hope you found this post helpful and don’t forget to download your free glute activation guide!
Love and light,
Dunkin, Mary Anne. “Hip Impingement: Symptoms, Treatments, Causes, and More.” WebMD, WebMD, https://www.webmd.com/pain-management/hip-impingement-causes-treatments.
“Femoroacetabular Impingement – Orthoinfo – Aaos.” OrthoInfo, https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases–conditions/femoroacetabular-impingement/.
“Hip Impingement.” Johns Hopkins Medicine, https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/hip-impingement.