A Functional Approach to Hip Issues in Adults

A Functional Approach to Hip Issues in Adults

The impact of hip issues like hip dislocation, hip dysplasia, FAI (Femoroacetabular Impingement), or labral tears can be debilitating, impacting the function of essential daily tasks and life enjoyment. The diagnosis, treatment, and management of hip disorders can be both mentally and emotionally costly, with the mainstream intervention often being surgical. 

These hip issues tend to be rooted in structural and mechanical misalignments, meaning that the Functional Patterns training methodology is a highly relevant approach to addressing these hip problems, promoting healing, preventing future issues, and enhancing overall body strength. In this article, we'll explore Functional Patterns' perspective on these common hip ailments, answering critical questions and guiding you toward recovery and improved well-being.

Understanding Hip Anatomy: The Foundation of Movement

The hip is one of the body's largest joints and is critical in our ability to move. It bears our body's weight while allowing for a wide range of motion. Understanding the basic anatomy of the hip is key to appreciating how various conditions affect this vital joint.

The hip joint is a ball-and-socket joint formed by two main bones: the femur (thigh bone) and the pelvis. The head of the femur, shaped like a ball, fits into the acetabulum, a rounded socket in the pelvis. Smooth cartilage covers the surface of the femoral head and the acetabulum, allowing for smooth, pain-free movement within the joint. A ring of cartilage called the labrum lines the outer edge of the acetabulum, creating a deeper socket for the femoral head and providing stability to the joint. 

The Function of the Hip Joint

The hip joint's primary function is to support the body's weight in both static (e.g., standing) and dynamic (e.g., walking, running) movements. The hip joint is involved in nearly every lower body movement, from standing, walking, climbing stairs to bending and sitting. Its function is essential for maintaining mobility, balance, and overall quality of life.

Examining Different Hip Issues

  1. Hip Dislocation

A dislocated hip is a painful medical emergency where the thigh bone (femur) pops out of the hip socket (acetabulum). It can result from traumatic injuries or overuse. It’s a more common phenomenon in someone with hip dysplasia. Habitual stretching will also contribute to the risk of hip dislocations. Signs of hip misalignment may include severe hip pain, limited range of motion, and joint deformity.

  1. Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a structural issue where the hip joint doesn't develop correctly, causing instability and abnormal wear and tear. It's less common in adults than in children, as it is often diagnosed and treated in childhood. However, when undiagnosed during childhood, it can lead to issues in adulthood, such as hip pain, arthritis, and hip dislocations. Common hip dysplasia symptoms include pain, discomfort, and a feeling of hip instability. Is hip dysplasia a severe condition? Yes, it can lead to hip arthritis if left untreated.


  1. Hip Labral Tears

A labral tear is an injury to the cartilage ring (labrum) surrounding the hip socket. It often results from repetitive motions such as long-distance running (1), gymnastics, or golf, and can also be the result of trauma. Hip labral tears can cause sharp, stabbing pain in the groin area and generalized hip pain. 


  1. Femoroacetabular Impingement (FAI)

FAI occurs when the hip bones do not form correctly with bony deposits on either the head of the femur, the socket, or both. The bony deposits can cause a pinching in the hip and damage within the joint. It can lead to hip pain and limited range of motion. 
While FAI, hip dysplasia, hip dislocations, and labral tears seem vastly different, they all involve structural or mechanical issues within the hip joint. In each hip condition, the femur and hip socket do not have a smooth relationship, and the femur is out of place while moving in the socket. Because of this, none of these issues would be resolved on their own. Studies also indicate significant weakness of the hip musculature in each of these hip conditions, further emphasizing the need for strategic training. (2, 3, 4)
Surgical repair is the common intervention for a labral tear, while hip replacement is the norm for FAI or dysplasia. Fortunately, in all but the most severe cases, improving the tracking of the femur and creating stability in the hip joint will provide lasting relief. 

Non-Surgical Interventions

A typical intervention for dysplasia, hip labral tears, and FAI is Physical Therapy, which uses isolation exercises to target underdeveloped muscles. The intention of physical therapy is good, and the muscles surrounding the hip will ultimately need to be strengthened. However, isolation exercises do not address the relationship between the hip muscles and the core, the spine, or the shoulders. Chronic hip issues like the ones we’re examining require more integration of muscles around the hip joint with the entire body. 

Functional Patterns Approach to Healthy Hips

Now that we've established the nature of these hip issues, let's explore how Functional Patterns' training system can be transformative in addressing them. Functional Patterns takes a holistic approach to rehabilitation that considers more than reducing pain in a single joint. We aim to address the body's alignment by creating a full-body muscular support system. 

Think of joint alignment in the hip similarly to the alignment on your car. When the alignment is off, driving creates uneven wear on the tires' tread. That tread wear is like the damage caused in the hip joint. Once the alignment is addressed, you will have a more dispersed distribution of wear.

Functional Patterns emphasizes that the body functions as a connected system. To address alignment in one joint, all the joints must be considered. Addressing hip issues requires balancing and strengthening all the muscles that influence the hip joint and the muscles further away from the hips. 

If you’re working with a Functional Patterns practitioner, the process will begin with a biomechanical analysis to identify imbalances and movement dysfunctions contributing to hip issues. Where are the asymmetries in the body? Where is there compression? Where is there a lack of muscle? Once we’ve established a baseline for your movement patterns, we can address the issues.

The Functional Pattern’s approach entails rehydrating any fascia influencing the hip using myofascial release techniques. Then, movement patterns can be realigned through corrective exercise in order to create stability and muscular support in the hip joint. Fixing your movement patterns will ultimately decrease the force placed on the hip joint. This approach promotes stability by improving posture, movement patterns, and muscle activation throughout the body, reducing the risk of hip dislocation, impingement, and pain. This approach to training offers a viable non-surgical solution for many individuals.

One of the critical advantages of Functional Patterns is their focus on injury prevention. Addressing the underlying causes of hip issues helps reduce the risk of recurrence. This is particularly important for individuals who have experienced hip dislocation or labral tears, as they are prone to further injury without proper intervention.

How to Get Started

If you’re dealing with any of the hip issues we’ve discussed, it’s essential that you act quickly to begin the process of strengthening or rehabilitating the hip. The most effective way to jumpstart your journey is to consult the Practitioner Map and hire a local practitioner for online or in-person training. Another great option is to begin the 10-Week Online Course, which covers the fundamental techniques needed to balance the body, emphasizing core and hip training. 


Hip issues can be debilitating, but Functional Patterns offers a comprehensive and effective solution. This holistic training system not only aids in healing but also strengthens your entire body, reducing the risk of future problems. Whether you start with the Functional Patterns 10-week Online Course or work with a local practitioner, the journey to better hip health begins by improving your movement. Don't let hip issues hold you back any longer – take control of your health and experience the transformative power of Functional Patterns. Your hips will thank you for it.


  1. Runner’s hip: the possible association between running and the development of degenerative acetabular labral tears (SS-35) - Arthroscopy (arthroscopyjournal.org)

  2. Hip muscle weakness in patients with symptomatic femoroacetabular impingement - ScienceDirect

  3. Physical impairments in symptomatic femoroacetabular impingement: a systematic review of the evidence - PubMed (nih.gov)

  4. A comprehensive review of hip labral tears - PMC (nih.gov)
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