Hip Labral Tear

The labrum is a ring of cartilage that runs along the outside rim of your hip joint socket. It works to keep the head of your femur, which is the top of your thighbone, secure within the socket. A tear in this cartilage is a labral tear.

Symptoms

Many people don’t experience any hip labral tear symptoms or their symptoms are so mild that they’re easily dismissed. Those that do experience symptoms may experience one or a combination of the following:

  • Hip pain, often felt in the front of the hip
  • Groin pain
  • A “locking” or “catching” sensation in the hip joint
  • Clicking in the hip joint
  • Stiffness
  • Limited range of motion

When you have a labral tear, hip pain is more likely to happen during movement.

Causes

A hip labral tear can have an array of causes. Acute injury to the hip joint, including dislocation, can cause a labral tear. Hip injuries are most often caused by motor vehicle accidents, falls, contact sports, such as football. Activities that involve repetitive twisting or other motions can cause the cartilage to wear down, resulting in a hip labral tear. Structural abnormalities and degenerative diseases can also contribute to labral tears.

Risks

The risk of a hip labral tear is increased by:

  • Being overweight
  • Participating in activities that put excess strain on the hips, such as running
  • Participating in contact sports, such as football or hockey
  • Having a degenerative disease, such as osteoarthritis
  • Having hip dysplasia or other abnormality of the hip

Diagnosis

Diagnosing a hip labral tear begins with your medical history and a physical examination. Your doctor will ask you to describe your symptoms in detail, including which motions bring on or worsen your symptoms. During the physical examination, the doctor will manipulate your leg and hip joint, trying various positions to try to pinpoint which movements cause pain and to test your range of motion.

Imaging scans commonly used to diagnose a hip labral tear include:

  • X-rays.
    These images are able to clearly show damage in the bones, including bone spurs, and narrowing of the joint space associated with osteoarthritis.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
    This type of scan produces 3-D images that show the bones and soft tissues in great detail, enabling the doctor to diagnose damage to the soft tissues.

Labral tears can be difficult to diagnose and may require the use of an anesthetic injection into the joint space to help rule out problems within the hip joint that can also cause symptoms similar to hip labral tear symptoms. Pain is more likely to be caused by another problem in the hip joint if the injection relieves your pain.

Options

Labral tear hip treatment may include one or more of the following:

  • Pain medication.
    Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and other pain relievers can reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Corticosteroid injections.
    These injections can be prescribed to relieve pain and inflammation if necessary.
  • Physical therapy.
    Specific exercises can help to increase strength and improve stability and range of motion.
  • Hip arthroscopy.
    This method is a minimally invasive surgical procedure performed via tiny incisions using a fiber-optic camera.

In most cases, the least invasive treatment options are recommended first and used for several weeks. Hip labral tear surgery may be recommended if other treatments fail to provide relief of symptoms or if the damage is extensive.