Physiotherapy as an Initial Treatment Option for Femoroacetabular Impingement: A Systematic Review of the Literature and Meta-analysis of 5 Randomized Controlled Trials

Am J Sports Med. 2020 Jul;48(8):2042-2050. doi: 10.1177/0363546519882668. Epub 2019 Nov 27.


Background: Femoroacetabular impingement is a common and debilitating source of hip pain in young adults. Although physiotherapy is used as a mainstay of nonoperative care for femoroacetabular impingement, the evidence regarding different physiotherapy practices is poorly understood.

Purpose: To collect and synthesize the best available evidence and arrive at a summary estimate of treatment effect for the utility of physiotherapy in the management of femoroacetabular impingement.

Study design: Meta-analysis.

Methods: A systematic review was performed on February 2, 2019, of PubMed, EMBASE, and Cochrane Library databases using "femoroacetabular impingement OR hip pain" and "physiotherapy OR nonoperative management" and their synonyms as search terms. Central treatment themes were identified across protocols, and pooled analyses were conducted to assess for differences in patient-reported outcome measures across these themes.

Results: A total of 5 randomized controlled trials met our inclusion criteria. The studies included 124 patients with a mean age of 35 years, of whom 24% were male. The average follow-up was 9.4 weeks (range, 6-12 weeks), and the follow-up rate across all participants was 86%. Among these 5 studies, 4 studies used a physiotherapy protocol that focused on core strengthening versus no core strengthening, 4 studies compared active strengthening versus passive modalities, and 3 studies compared supervised versus unsupervised physiotherapy. Pooled analysis across all studies demonstrated improved outcomes in the treatment groups compared with the controls (standardized mean difference [SMD], 0.76; 95% CI, 0.38-1.13; P < .0001). Core strengthening (SMD, 0.82; 95% CI, 0.39-1.26; P = .0002), active physiotherapy (SMD, 0.70; 95% CI, 0.29-1.10; P = .0008), and supervised physiotherapy (SMD, 0.58; 95% CI, 0.14-1.03; P = .01) were found to result in statistically significant improvements in functional outcomes compared with no core strengthening, passive modalities, and unsupervised care, respectively.

Conclusion: Supervised physiotherapy programs focusing on active strengthening and core strengthening are more effective than unsupervised, passive, and non-core focused programs. Future studies with longer term follow-up and validated femoroacetabular impingement specific outcome measures are required to determine prognostic factors for success with nonoperative care as well as to determine the ideal patient profile and structured rehabilitation protocol.

Keywords: femoroacetabular impingement; hip pain; nonoperative care; nonoperative treatment; physiotherapy.