Hip pain has been a common complaint for decades in orthopedic clinics around the country. While many patients have an easily explained cause, such as hip arthritis, others do not. Patients often present with severe pain that prevents them from playing sports and exercising, and frequently they’ll have trouble sleeping, or even sitting comfortably. For years, doctors were puzzled by non-arthritic hip pain. By all accounts, the hip would look normal. “Well, you don’t have arthritis, so it must be a groin pull,” doctors would say, and patients would continue to struggle.
In the mid 1990s, Dr. Reinhold Ganz, a hip specialist in Switzerland, noticed a potential problem- in many of his patients with severe hip pain, x-rays showed a strange shape to the femoral head, or ball of the hip joint. He also noticed that his patients with advanced hip arthritis often had a femoral head with the same odd shape. He decided to investigate further.
The human hip is a true ball and socket joint. In normal hips, the ball (called the femoral head or head of the femur) is a perfect sphere. This allows smooth movement within the socket through a very wide range of motion. However, if the head is not perfectly spherical, or has a raised bump next to it, the bump will come in contact with the edge of the socket when the hip is placed in certain positions. If this contact occurs repeatedly or forcefully, the labrum, or cartilage rim of the socket, can be torn. If this process continues, the hip can be damaged enough to lead to arthritis. Dr. Ganz called this Femoroacetabular Impingement (FAI), and began developing techniques to treat the source of the problem, hoping to relieve his patients’ pain and ultimately prevent them from developing arthritis.
In the early stages of treatment, FAI was treated with open surgery. Large incisions had to be used to perform the surgery safely, and patients endured long recovery times. At the time, this was revolutionary, and despite a difficult recovery, patients often experienced complete relief of pain and were able to return to the things they loved. Today in 2012, we’ve come a long way. FAI can be treated arthroscopically- this means using a small camera and specialized instruments through tiny incisions. We are able to repair the labrum, and reshape the ball to make it round again, all with much less pain and much shorter recovery times than traditional open surgery. Patients will sometimes even say their pain is gone immediately upon waking up in the recovery room after surgery. Most importantly, patients can get their life back, and get back to the things they love.
If you or someone you know is struggling with hip pain, chances are we can help. There’s no reason to live with hip pain. Give us a call today.