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Hip Labral Tear

A hip labral tear is an injury to the labrum, the cartilage that surrounds the outside rim of your hip joint socket. The hip joint is a ball and socket joint in which the head of the femur is the ball and the pelvic acetabulum forms the socket. The labrum helps to deepen the socket and provide stability to the joint. It also acts as a cushion and enables smooth movements of the joint.

Causes

A tear in the labrum of the hip can result from traumatic injury or from participating in sports such as football, soccer, basketball, and snow skiing. These sports are associated with sudden changes of direction and twisting movements that can cause pain in the hip.  Repetitive movements and weight bearing activities over time can lead to joint wear and tear that can ultimately result in a hip labral tear. Labral tear can also be a sign of degenerative changes and arthritis of the hip joint.

Symptoms

Many patients with a hip labral tear do not have symptoms. However, some patients may experience pain in the hip or groin area, a catching or locking sensation in the hip joint, or significant restriction in hip movement. 

Diagnosis

Your doctor will order certain tests to determine the cause of your hip pain.

X-rays of the hip allow your physician to rule out other possible conditions such as fractures or structural abnormalities.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may also be used to evaluate the labrum. An injection of contrast material into the hip joint space at the time of the MRI can help show the labral tears much clearer.

Injection of local anesthetic into the joint space is sometimes performed to confirm the location of the pain. If the injection completely relieves your pain, it is likely that the cause of the problem is located inside the hip joint.

Treatment Options

Treatment for a hip labral tear will vary depending on the severity of the condition. People with a minor labral tear recover within a few weeks with the help of non-surgical treatments.

Conservative treatments include:

  • Medications: Anti-inflammatory medications can be helpful in relieving pain and reducing inflammation associated with labral tears.
  • Physical therapy: Physical therapy that helps to improve hip range of motion, strength, and stability are also recommended.

However, severe cases may require arthroscopic surgery to repair the torn portion of the labrum. If the torn labrum is associated with significant arthritis of the hip joint, hip replacement is associated with better outcomes.