The 7 Best Stretches for Femoral Acetabular Impingement: Top Techniques to Ease FAI

The 7 Best Stretches for Femoral Acetabular Impingement Top Techniques to Ease FAI

Femoral acetabular impingement (FAI) is a common cause of hip and groin pain, especially among people aged between 20 and 45. FAI occurs when the bones of the hip joint are not shaped properly, causing them to rub against one another and limit motion. This condition can be painful and restrict daily activities, so finding ways to alleviate discomfort and improve mobility is essential.

In this article, we will discuss the best stretches and core exercises specifically designed for individuals experiencing FAI. These stretches will help increase flexibility, reduce pain, and promote overall joint health. Incorporating these exercises into a daily routine can greatly improve quality of life and help manage symptoms associated with femoral acetabular impingement.

Key Takeaways

  • Stretches and exercises are crucial for managing pain and improving mobility in individuals experiencing FAI.
  • Incorporating a daily routine of targeted stretches can promote joint health and alleviate discomfort caused by FAI.
  • Understanding the symptoms and seeking proper treatment can significantly improve the quality of life for those affected by FAI.

Understanding Femoral Acetabular Impingement

Femoral acetabular impingement (FAI), also known as hip impingement, is a common cause of hip and groin pain, particularly in people aged 20 to 45. The condition occurs when the bones of the hip joint – the acetabulum and the femoral head – have an irregular shape, causing them to rub against each other during movement.

There are two primary types of FAI, and in some cases, a combination of both can be present:

  • Pincer: Involves extra bone growth on the acetabulum, leading to over-coverage of the femoral head.
  • Cam: The femoral head has an irregular shape, causing it to bump against the acetabulum during movement.

Over time, these abnormal bone structures can cause friction and damage to the hip joint’s cartilage and labrum, leading to inflammation, pain, and restricted mobility. The reason for developing FAI can be attributed to genetic factors, previous injuries, or repetitive activities that stress the hip joint, such as certain sports.

To determine if a person has FAI, we often rely on physical examinations, imaging studies like X-rays or MRI, and the individual’s medical history.

Treatment for FAI can vary based on severity and may include conservative approaches like physical therapy, rest, and anti-inflammatory medications. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to correct the bone abnormalities and repair any damage caused to the joint.

In managing and preventing FAI-related discomfort, we incorporate a range of stretches and exercises designed to improve hip joint mobility, strengthen the muscles surrounding the joint, and ease inflammation. Integrating these stretches into your routine can help alleviate pain and prevent further complications associated with FAI.

Symptoms of FAI

As we discuss the best stretches for FAI, it’s essential to understand the symptoms experienced by those affected by this condition.

People with FAI often experience pain in various locations, such as the hip, groin, buttock, lower back, thigh, or knee. This pain usually arises during or after intense activities like sports or dancing. Moreover, hip stiffness or limited range of motion is one common symptom that makes daily activities harder for people with FAI.

Another symptom is a clicking, popping, or catching sensation in the hip joint while performing certain movements. This occurs due to the irregular contact between the ball and socket, leading to potential labral tears and other types of cartilage damage. Alongside these discomforts, once FAI is flared up, limping may also become noticeable during walking or prolonged standing.

In summary, the primary symptoms of femoroacetabular impingement include:

  • Pain in the hip, groin, buttock, lower back, thigh, or knee
  • Stiffness and limited range of motion in the hip joint, particularly with deep hip flexion
  • Clicking, popping, or catching sensations during specific movements
  • Limping during walking or prolonged standing

By understanding these symptoms, we can better tailor our recommendations for stretches that may help alleviate discomfort and improve mobility for those with FAI.

Diagnosis Process

When diagnosing FAI, we follow a comprehensive process involving various steps to ensure the most accurate assessment of the condition. Let’s walk you through the stages that make up the diagnosis process.

Initially, we perform a physical exam on our patients to assess their hip range of motion, joint stability, and any tenderness or pain they might be experiencing. This allows us to determine the problem’s extent and identify any limitations in everyday activities.

We will likely perform an impingement test, which involves flexing, and rotating the hip, aiming to reproduce the symptoms of FAI in order to identify the root cause of discomfort.

The physical exam and patient’s subjective reports are often enough information for most practitioners to begin conservative treatment with an accurate diagnosis. Early conservative treatment, such as physical therapy, is key to reducing long-term consequences.

If conservative treatment fails to respond, we often turn to imaging tests to better understand the hip joint’s structure. X-rays are commonly used to assess the bones’ shapes and identify the presence of extra bone growth, which is a significant indicator of FAI. These images also give us insights into any possible signs of osteoarthritis or other joint issues.

In cases where X-ray images aren’t sufficient for a conclusive diagnosis or when we need a more detailed look at the hip joint, we may opt for an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging). MRI scans provide comprehensive images of the soft tissues and cartilage surrounding the hip joint. These images help us detect labral tears and other abnormalities contributing to FAI or exacerbating the symptoms.

Non-Surgical Treatments

Various non-surgical treatments can help manage symptoms and improve mobility when dealing with FAI.

Modified Rest is an essential component of a non-surgical treatment plan for FAI. Reducing physical activities that cause pain can help alleviate discomfort and inflammation. We want you to stay as active as you possibly can with other activities such as swimming, biking, and weight lifting.

A key element of treating FAI without surgery is physical therapy. Focusing on specific exercises and stretches tailored to your individual needs improves your range of motion and strengthens the muscles surrounding your hip joint. A physical therapy exercise program for FAI can help manage hip pain and improve joint stability by focusing on muscles you didn’t even know you had and enhancing your mobility.

Physical therapy that emphasizes strengthening, motor control, and movement patterns rather than the range of motion appears to relieve pain in some patients with FAI. The success rates of nonoperative treatment for FAI have ranged from 39% to 82%.

This is actually quite high despite most people with FAI being reluctant to go to physical therapy for FAI.

If physical therapy does not work for treating FAI, other non-surgical options are available for patients.

One of these options is injections, which can be used to reduce inflammation and provide pain relief. Corticosteroid injections are commonly used to reduce inflammation in the hip joint and can provide relief for several months.

Another type of injection that can be used is hyaluronic acid, which can help lubricate the joint and reduce pain. However, it is important to note that injections are not a permanent solution and may need to be repeated over time. They also do not work for everyone, and success is based on an individual basis.

Surgical Options

When it comes to treating femoroacetabular impingement (FAI), there are several surgical options available. This section’ll discuss the primary surgical treatment methods, including arthroscopy and open operations.

Arthroscopic hip surgery is a minimally invasive procedure that can be an effective option for treating FAI. During hip arthroscopy, the hip joint is accessed using small incisions, and an arthroscope (a small video camera) is used to examine and repair any damage. This method often results in a faster recovery time compared to open surgery, and it can successfully address labral tears and abnormal bone growth.

On the other hand, an open operation may be recommended in more severe cases of FAI or when more extensive bone reshaping or repair is needed. This involves a larger incision to access the hip joint and gives the surgeon better visualization of the affected area.

In conclusion, surgical treatment options for FAI, including arthroscopy and open surgery, can benefit patients experiencing hip pain and impaired function due to impingement.

Best Stretches for FAI

Femoroacetabular Impingement can lead to limited hip mobility, causing pain and discomfort. Incorporating stretching exercises into your routine can help improve flexibility, balance, and range of motion while decreasing pain levels.

Stretching is only part of the equation and should be combined a comprehensive strength and stability program as well!

Otherwise, you are only getting half of the main benefit.

We’ve gathered some of the best stretches for FAI to help you regain hip mobility and alleviate your symptoms.

Hip Flexor Stretch

Our hip flexors play a key role in hip mobility, and a tight hip flexor can contribute to FAI discomfort, causing more compression on the front of the hip. The hip flexor stretch aims to increase flexibility and mobility in this area. To perform this stretch:

  1. Begin by kneeling on one knee with the other foot flat on the floor in front of you.
  2. Keep your back straight and your hands on your hips.
  3. Gently push your hips forward until you feel a stretch at the front of your hip.
  4. Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch

Piriformis Stretch

The piriformis muscle in the buttocks is important for hip stability, lifting, and rotation. A tight piriformis can contribute to hip impingement and abnormal mechanics at the hip. It can also be a powerful pain generator, so we recommend the piriformis stretch to alleviate tension. To do this stretch:

  1. Lie on your back with both feet flat and knees bent.
  2. Cross one ankle over the opposite knee.
  3. Pull the crossed leg towards your chest until you feel a stretch in the buttocks.
  4. Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds and repeat on the other side.

Inner Thigh Stretch

Stretching the inner thigh muscles can help improve overall hip flexibility and balance, potentially reducing FAI symptoms. To perform the inner thigh stretch:

  1. Sit on the floor with your back straight.
  2. Bend your knees and place the soles of your feet together.
  3. Hold onto your ankles and gently press your knees towards the floor.
  4. Hold this stretch for 20-30 seconds, feeling the stretch in your inner thighs.
Butter Hip Adductor stretch

Groin Stretch

The groin muscles play a key role in hip mobility, so stretching them can improve flexibility and alleviate FAI symptoms. To perform the groin stretch:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent.
  2. Lower your hips, keeping your back straight, until you feel a stretch in your groin muscles.
  3. Hold this position for 20-30 seconds and then return to the starting position.
Standing Groin Stretch for FAI

Incorporating these stretching exercises into your daily routine can help improve hip mobility, flexibility, and balance. Always consult your physical therapist to ensure these stretches are appropriate for your needs and to receive guidance on proper technique.

Core Work for FAI

Core exercises are an important component of any FAI rehabilitation program. The core muscles, including the abdominals, hip muscles, and low back muscles, all attach to the pelvis, which houses the hip joint socket. Strengthening these muscles can help improve control of the pelvis and hip joint, which is important for reducing pain and improving mobility in individuals with FAI.

Core exercises can also help improve balance and stability, which is important for preventing postural disturbances at the hip and reducing the risk of further injury. By working to improve core strength and control, individuals with FAI can improve their overall function and quality of life.

Pelvic Tilt

Incorporating pelvic tilt exercises into your routine can help improve hip mobility and strengthen the muscles around the hip joint. To perform a pelvic tilt, lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Engage your abdominal muscles and gently tilt your pelvis towards your chest, flattening your lower back against the floor. Hold this position for a few seconds, and then relax. Repeat this exercise 10 times per set, aiming for 2-3 sets.

Pelvic Tilt


Planks are an excellent way to build core strength, essential for individuals with femoroacetabular impingement (FAI). To perform a plank, begin in a push-up position with your forearms flat on the ground and elbows aligned beneath your shoulders. Keep your body straight from your head to your heels, engaging your core muscles to maintain proper form. Hold this position for 20-30 seconds, working up to a minute as you become stronger. Aim for 2-3 sets of planks.

Plank Exercise For core Strength

Side Planks

Side planks are ideal for a more challenging core exercise that targets the obliques. Start by lying on your side with your elbow placed directly beneath your shoulder and your feet stacked. With your hips aligned, lift them off the floor, engaging your core to maintain a straight line from your head to your feet. Hold this position for 20-30 seconds before switching to the other side. Aim for 2-3 sets on each side as regular planks.

Side Plank

Abdominal Exercises

Strengthening the abdominals is crucial for supporting the hip joints and alleviating FAI symptoms.

One effective exercise is the bicycle crunch. Lie on your back with your hands behind your head and knees bent at a 45-degree angle. Bring your right elbow towards your left knee while extending your right leg, then switch sides. Repeat this motion, alternating sides, for 10-15 repetitions per set.

Include these core exercises in your routine to help manage and improve the symptoms of femoroacetabular impingement. Remember to maintain proper form and engage your core muscles throughout each exercise. You’ll soon notice improvements in your hip mobility and overall stability with consistent practice.

Foam Rolling for FAI

Foam rolling is an excellent technique for FAI patients. By incorporating foam rolling into your stretching routine, we can reduce muscle tightness, improve blood flow, and, most importantly, may alleviate pain.

Let’s start with foam rolling the glutes. This area can often become tight, potentially contributing to hip impingement. To foam roll your glutes, sit on the foam roller with one foot on the opposite knee. Gently roll back and forth, focusing on areas of tension for about 30 seconds.

Foam rolling the glute for FAI

Next, we’ll tackle the hip flexors, which play a crucial role in hip mobility. Lie face down with the foam roller beneath one hip to foam roll your hip flexors. Slowly roll back and forth across the front of the hip, spending around 30 seconds on each side.

Foam Rolling hip flexor for FAI

With consistent foam rolling, we should notice reductions in pain and an increase in blood flow to the affected areas. We’ve covered various muscles crucial for healthy hip function, such as the glutes, hip flexors, and piriformis. Targeting these muscles can give us the relief and improvement needed for those with FAI.

Remember, a friendly reminder: always listen to your body while foam rolling; more pressure does not mean better results. It should be the “hurt so good” discomfort. If it is so painful that you can’t stand it, then back off the pressure and use less body weight on the roller.

Sports and Activities to Avoid

When dealing with femoral acetabular impingement, it’s crucial to be mindful of certain sports and activities that might exacerbate the condition. Let’s dive into some activities that might be best to avoid or modify when experiencing hip impingement.

Jumping and running are high-impact activities that can place significant stress on the hip joint, potentially speeding up the wear and tear process. We know it might be tough for some, but avoiding or limiting these activities is better to protect our hips and reduce the risk of worsening symptoms. Opting for low-impact exercises, like swimming and walking, can still provide a good cardio workout while minimizing stress on the hips.

In the gym, exercises like heavy squats, leg presses, and rowing can place unnecessary strain on the hip joint, so we should be cautious with these movements. Modifying the range of motion, using lighter weights, or opting for alternative exercises might better suit us when dealing with FAI. Let’s always remember to prioritize our hip health over our egos in the gym.

While swimming is a fantastic, low-impact exercise, we should still be mindful of our chosen strokes. Some swimming strokes, like breaststroke, can put significant pressure on the hips, whereas freestyle and backstroke are more hip-friendly options. We should always listen to our bodies and adjust our activities accordingly.

In conclusion, though living with femoral acetabular impingement might require some modifications to our exercise routine, we can still enjoy various activities and maintain our fitness while caring for our hips.

Preventing FAI

To prevent FAI, it’s essential to maintain good hip health and mobility. Regular physical activity is crucial, as it keeps the hip joints flexible and strong. When incorporating stretches and exercises, focus on movements that promote hip flexibility and strengthen the surrounding muscles.

Some general preventative measures that can be helpful include:

  • Low-impact exercises: This type of physical activity, such as swimming or cycling, puts less stress on the hip joint. These exercises help maintain hip mobility and can be combined with strengthening exercises for optimal results.
  • Hip-specific stretches: Include hip flexor stretches, hamstring stretches, and piriformis stretches in your routine. These stretches can help improve hip flexibility, which may prevent FAI from developing.
  • Strengthening exercises: Focusing on strengthening the hip abductor and hip extensor muscles can support overall hip joint health. Some examples are clamshells, leg raises, and single-leg squats.
  • Proper warm-up and cool-down: Always include a proper warm-up and cool-down as part of your exercise routine. Doing so can help reduce the risk of injury and keep your hips healthy.

Maintaining a healthy body weight can also be beneficial, as excess weight can put undue strain on the hip joints, potentially contributing to FAI development.

Frequently Asked Questions


In conclusion, we’ve discussed several effective stretches that can help alleviate pain and improve mobility for those suffering from Femoral Acetabular Impingement (FAI).

We recommend practicing these stretches regularly to help maintain good hip health and prevent further issues. Furthermore, engaging in low-impact exercises such as walking, swimming, and cycling can promote overall mobility and strength. Listening to your body and avoiding activities that cause discomfort or exacerbate your condition is crucial.

Finally, don’t hesitate to seek advice from a qualified physical therapist or medical professional. They can provide personalized guidance and support to ensure you’re safely and effectively addressing your FAI symptoms. You can take the necessary steps toward a healthier hip and improved quality of life through dedication, consistency, and proper guidance.

Has stretching made an impact on your pain levels with FAI? Let us know in the comments below!

About the Author

James C. Lee DPT, SCS, CSCS
James is a native of Limestone, TN. He attended the University of Tennessee, receiving his BS in Health and Exercise Science and completing his Doctorate of Physical Therapy from the University of Saint Augustine. James worked as a traveling physical therapist and treats various patients with a specialty in Orthopedics and Sports Medicine. James is a board-certified Sports Physical Therapist and a Strength and Conditioning Specialist and is certified in Functional Dry Needling, Running Gait Analysis, and Blood Flow Restriction Therapy. James contributes his expertise to physical therapy websites and other guest appearances.

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