Exercises For Hip Impingement: How To Relieve Your Pain

Hip impingement, also known as femoral acetabular impingement (FAI), is a condition that causes pain and stiffness in the hips. 

The hip joints carry most of our body weight, allowing us to jump, move, walk, and run. The hips are usually flexible joints, but repeated motion and trauma can cause hip impingement. 

Exercises For Hip Impingement: How To Relieve Your Pain

This affects the hips’ capability to carry out certain movements. The discomfort can increase with simple tasks that involve bending at the waist or hips.

Examples include bending over to tie a shoelace, sitting for long periods, or riding a bicycle. 

If you live with hip impingement, the best treatment plan for you will vary based on your medical provider’s advice. However, there are exercises you can try that may help you manage FAI. 

You’ll find these exercises in this post, including more information about hip impingement and its symptoms. 

More About Hip Impingement 

The hip joint looks like a ball and a socket. The socket component is called the acetabulum. Its exterior rim is made of fibrocartilage which is called the labrum. 

The labrum helps straighten the ball socket, improve the joint’s overall stability, and help close off joint fluid to aid joint lubrication.

The labrum also lets the ball and socket component work efficiently during activity. The top area of the thigh bone, called the femoral head, forms the hip joint’s ‘ball’ section. 

Injury, disease, and trauma involved with the ball and socket component may lead to hip impingement. A symptom of this is additional bone surrounding the acetabulum and femoral head.

These bone growths prevent the joint from gliding efficiently, affecting the joint’s general range of motion. 

There are two primary kinds of hip impingement: pincer impingement and cam impingement. 

Pincer hip impingement happens when the acetabulum excessively encloses the femoral head, so the femoral neck touches the acetabular rim throughout any movement.

If this isn’t addressed, this constant contact can impair the labrum and nearby cartilage. 

Cam impingement happens when the ball component in the hip joint takes on an unusual shape. This can cause resistance and friction inside the socket.

A patient can also live with both pincer and cam impingement, a condition called combined hip impingement. 

Though several examples of hip impingement are connected to joint deformities, other examples are related to joint and surrounding tissue injuries, particularly those related to athletics. 

As a result of unusual wear and contact, bony projections that grow inside the joint can impair the labrum and socket cartilage. This can cause a condition called osteoarthritis.

Signs Of Hip Impingement

Hip impingement symptoms differ based on the condition’s intensity. General signs of hip impingement are stiffness in the hip, upper thigh, and surrounding the groin. Many patients also note pain in these areas.

People that live with hip impingement regularly have a limited range of motion. They may find it hard to flex the hip close or past a right angle. Hip impingement can also become more serious through activity and exercise. 

Squatting and twisting movements may cause a spreading or sharp pain across the affected portion.

If hip impingement is less severe, patients usually experience a dull sore feeling throughout these movements. Sitting for too long may also lead to occasional hip impingement symptoms. 

Hip impingement symptoms can also involve lower back pain. This pain may be noticeable in active periods, or more intense after lots of activity. 

Exercises For Hip Impingement: How To Relieve Your Pain

Exercises For Hip Impingement

If you think you have hip impingement, you’ll need to consult a doctor for a diagnosis and begin hip impingement physical therapy with a physical therapist. 

They will help form a personalized recovery plan with various treatments to help handle your symptoms. These may involve electrical stimulation or heat therapy, but physical exercises are often the most effective recovery tool. 

Practicing certain exercises frequently and correctly can help improve painful symptoms and avoid hip issues in the future. 

Here are some hip impingement exercises that can help increase your hip mobility, strength, balance, and flexibility.

Hip Flexor Stretch

Many patients that live with hip impingement live with tightness and stiffness in the iliopsoas muscle group. This is found at the front of the hips and allows the hips to bend. 

A lot of daily tasks involve bending, like picking items up, sitting, or tying a shoelace. This is why patients may experience regular tightness as a result of these activities.

To ease these uncomfortable sensations, you’ll need to perform hip flexor stretches as part of your treatment plan.

Follow these steps to perform a hip flexor stretch:

  1. Start on the ground on one knee with your opposite foot flat on the ground ahead of you.
  2. With a straight back, start to gradually lunge forward, keeping your chest raised. Pull your tailbone closer to the ground, lifting your public bone in the direction of your navel. 
  3. Move your belly button in and tense your glutes.
  4. Lunge deeply as much as is comfortable. Don’t overdo the movement, particularly if you’re a beginner.
  5. Hold the position for 20 to 30 seconds, then return to the starting position. 
  6. Repeat the movement three times, then perform on the other side. 

Piriformis Stretch

The piriformis muscle is a level, band-shaped muscle found at the top of the hips. It steadies the hips and raises the thigh away from the body, so it’s important to stretch it as part of hip impingement therapy. 

Follow these steps to perform a piriformis stretch:

  1. Start by lying on your back with your feet flat on the floor. Make sure that your knees are bent. 
  2. Position one of your ankles so it rests above your bent knee. Hold the thigh of your leg that’s on the ground and draw it towards you. 
  3. Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds. Repeat the stretch three times then perform on the opposite side.

Seated Butterfly

Tightness in the inner thigh and groin is a sign of FAI, so stretching the groin muscles should be part of your hip impingement exercise plan. 

A groin stretch you can try is called Seated Butterfly. Follow these steps to perform the stretch. 

  1. Begin sitting on the ground with your back upright. Press the soles of your feet together. 
  2. Root down through your buttocks. Draw your chin inwards and breathe deeply. As you exhale, let your knees sink to the floor. 
  3. If the stretch feels tighter than is comfortable, press your feet forward. If you prefer a deeper stretch, hold them nearer your body. 
  4. Hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds. Release the pose and repeat it three or four times.


Other than stretches, your physical therapist may advise you to perform hip strengthening exercises. These will help increase your muscle strength around the hips. This can improve your flexibility and relieve your pain. 

Bridges are an example of a great hip-strengthening exercise. Follow these steps to perform a bridge:

  1. Begin lying on your back with your feet flat on the floor. Your knees should remain bent while you engage your core.
  2. Press your heels into the floor and raise your hips off of the floor. Stop when they line up with your shoulders and knees. 
  3. Hold the pose for three breaths, then lower your hips down to the ground. Repeat between 5 and 10 times, depending on your strength level. 

Exercises To Avoid With Hip Impingement

There are lots of exercises that can help you manage hip impingement, but there are also some activities you should avoid.

Activities that involve lots of hip flexion, along with external and internal rotation, may worsen your condition. 

Examples of these include squats, high knees, deadlifts, deep lunges, rowing, squats, squat jacks, and the leg press. 

The Bottom Line

Hip impingement can be a painful and irritating condition, but fortunately, several things can help you manage its symptoms. 

Though physical therapy varies between patients, exercises are often a significant part of a treatment plan. 

The exercises above are useful, but always ensure you have the go-ahead from your physical therapist before you start, particularly if you are new to exercise. 

Laura Simmons

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