Hip impingement or femoroacetabular impingement (FAI) is common hip condition causing pain in the front of the hip and groin. This condition has received considerable attention in the medical research and our clinical practice because of the sky rocketing rates of advanced imaging including MRI and surgical procedures to “correct” the condition. Of greatest concern are the high rates of hip impingement and labral tears found on imaging in asymptomatic (pain free) individuals. Thus, are the structural changes associated with FAI natural adaptations to activity or do they require surgical intervention? The lack of a clear cause and effect between structural FAI and a patient’s symptoms supports the utilization of conservative interventions including Physical Therapy prior to any surgical intervention. Consistent with other musculoskeletal conditions, one of the main indications for surgery remains failure of conservative care, but a new research study reported the majority of patients with FAI did not receive Physical Therapy before surgical interventions.
In the Journal of Sports and Orthopedic Physical Therapy authors reported on health care utilization of patients undergoing hip arthroscopy between 2004 and 2013 (Young et al. 2019). They reviewed the charts of 1870 participants who underwent this procedure to determine what interventions they were offered prior to their surgery. Surprisingly, 60% (n=1106) did not receive any Physical Therapy prior to surgery and for those who did receive Physical Therapy they averaged only 2 visits, well below the standard of care for this condition. Further, only 12% of patients undergoing PT received 6 or more visits including exercise. Surgery is reserved for patients with persistent functional limitations (disability) not pathology (hip impingement on imaging), but without an evidence based course of Physical Therapy surgical decision making will be remain unclear.