Hip Pain: What are Femoroacetabular Impingement (FAI) and Labral Tears?

Hip pain is particularly troublesome because it often impedes mobility. There are many possible causes to pain and stiffness in the hip joint, but one possibility is femoracetabular impingement (FAI). In this blog, I will answer some basic questions about FAI and cover the different treatment options.

What is FAI?

Hip impingement, or femoroacetabular impingement (FAI), is a condition where the bones of the ball and socket of the hip joint do not work smoothly together. The abnormality can be due to issues with the shape of the femoral head (ball), the acetabulum (socket), or both.

Are there different types of FAI?

If the problem is on the femoral side, it is known as cam impingement. If the problem is on the acetabular side, it is known as pincer impingement.

What causes a labral tear and how does it relate to FAI?

The mismatch between the shapes of the ball and socket causes the bones to hit against each other (impinge) and lead to damage to cartilage in the joint or to the labrum. The labrum is a ring of cartilage along the rim of the socket, and a labral tear due to FAI is a potential reason for the development of pain. Due to the possible damage to the cartilage in the joint (articular cartilage), FAI is a risk factor for the development of osteoarthritis.

FAI is commonly seen in athletes because of their increased activity level and pressure on the joint.

What are the symptoms of FAI?

Common symptoms of FAI include:

  • Pain, often in the groin, with hip flexion and rotation
  • Locking or catching with certain activities
  • Soreness or pain with prolonged sitting
  • Decreased range of motion

What are FAI treatment options?

Depending on multiple contributing factors, FAI can be treated conservatively or with surgery if necessary.

Conservative (non-operative) treatment can include:

Surgical treatment can include:

  • Arthroscopy
  • Open surgery, including surgical dislocation

Where can I learn more?

For more information, visit the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

Scott A. Wingerter, M.D., Ph.D.About the Author: Scott A. Wingerter, M.D., Ph.D. is a board-certified and fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon specializing in joint preservation and replacement surgery. His focus is on total joint replacement of the hip and knee, hip resurfacing, partial knee replacement, minimally invasive surgery, and hip arthroscopy.


The medical information contained in the Dickson-Diveley Orthopaedics website is provided to increase your knowledge and understanding of orthopedic conditions. This information should not be interpreted as a recommendation for a specific medical or surgical treatment plan. As each patient may have specific symptoms or associated problems, the treatment regimen for a specific patient may not be the proper treatment for another.

Gaining knowledge and understanding of a particular problem or condition is the first step in any medical treatment plan. I believe the information presented on our website will be helpful for those individuals experiencing hip pain or other related problems. However, this information is not intended to replace the advice of your family physician. You are encouraged to consult with your physician to discuss any course of treatment presented or suggested.