What is a hip labral tear or strain?

A hip labral tear or strain is an injury to the ring of cartilage (labrum) that runs along the outside rim of the hip joint socket. The labrum cushions the hip joint, as well as helps hold the top of the thighbone in the hip socket.

Causes of a hip labral tear or strain

Labral tears or strains can be caused by trauma, repetitive movements in certain sports or structural abnormalities.
  • Trauma — trauma to the hip, such as in a car accident, bad fall or falling directly onto the hip can cause a labral tear.
  • Repetitive movements in sports — sports that require repetitive movements to the hip, such as swimming, golf and ballet, can lead to joint wear that can result in a hip labral tear.
  • Structural abnormalities — hip issues that speed up the wear on the hip joint can gradually cause a hip labral tear.

Risk factors for a hip labral tear or strain

  • Overuse — people who play sports that require repetitive twisting and pivoting are at a higher risk of suffering from a labral tear or strain.
  • Structural abnormalities — people who were born with hip abnormalities are at higher risk for a hip labral tear or strain.
  • Pre-existing hip conditions — people who have other hip issues, such as femoroacetabular impingement, are at higher risk from suffering from a labral tear.

Symptoms of a hip labral tear or strain

Many people who have labral tears do not have any symptoms.

For those who do experience symptoms, the most common symptoms include:

  • Pain and stiffness in the hip joint or groin
  • Inability to move the hip joint
  • Locking or clicking in the hip joint

Diagnosis of a hip labral tear or strain

Medical history
A labral tear or strain can be diagnosed in a medical exam with your primary care or orthopedic physician.

The doctor will take a full medical history to determine if you have had prior hip injuries, when you noticed the pain, where the pain is located, what movements are most painful and how the symptoms impact your day-to-day activities.

Physical exam
During the physical exam, the orthopedist will examine the hip and thigh by moving the leg in different directions to check range of motion and stability.

Diagnostic imaging
Your doctor may also order a hip x-ray, MRI or CT scan. The x-ray can rule out any broken bones in the hip or check for structural abnormalities. The MRI can test for tears in the soft tissues around the bone. The CT scan will be ordered if the results from an x-ray or MRI is inconclusive.

Treatment for a hip labral tear or strain

Some patients can recover in a few weeks from a labral tear by resting and using anti-inflammatory medication.

Others may need more advanced treatments including:

  • Brace the hip to stabilize the area
  • Corticosteroids — an injection of a corticosteroid into the hip joint can relieve the pain and reduce inflammation.
  • Physical therapy and rehabilitation — physical therapy may be indicated if the symptoms from a labral tear do not subside within a couple weeks.
  • Platelet rich plasma (PRP) injection — PRP injections expedite healing by injecting concentrated growth factor platelets from your blood back into the affected hip.
Surgery
  • Arthroscopy — for patients who require surgery for a full labral tear, Mercy Health physicians perform the repair arthroscopically using a camera and surgical tools inserted into small incisions at the hip.
  • Debridement — when there is a partial tear in the labrum, the doctor can repair it with a debridement via an arthroscopy where the torn part of the labrum is removed.

Recovery from a hip labral tear or strain

Management of symptoms is the first priority in the recovery process after a labral tear. Patients who follow the rehabilitation plan completely are more likely to get back to their normal activities most quickly.

If the pain comes back during rehab, you may be pushing too much, too soon. You should work with your physician and physical therapist to modify the physical therapy plan and gradually strengthen the muscles around the hip.

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