Hip labral tear

What is a hip labral tear?

Your hip is a ball-and-socket joint. The ball is called the femoral head. The socket is called the acetabulum. The labrum is a soft ring of cartilage that lines the acetabulum.

The labrum helps the ball glide smoothly in the socket. The labrum also helps to keep the ball from slipping out of the socket.

A hip labral tear is damage to the labrum in the hip. That damage can lead to hip pain, damage to the bones in the joint, and arthritis in the joint.

What are the symptoms of a hip labral tear?

It’s possible that you won’t notice any obvious symptoms, but when you do, the symptoms may include:

  • Pain or stiffness in the hip
  • Pain in the groin or front of the hip
  • A locking feeling or clicking sound in the hip as it moves

What causes hip labral tears?

Structural instability

Conditions such as hip impingement or hip dysplasia cause imperfections in the structure of the hip joint so that the ball and socket don’t fit together properly. The abnormal movement that these conditions cause can damage the labrum.

Injury

People who participate in some sports are at risk for hip labral tears. A direct hit to the joint can injure the hip and result in labral tears, and certain repetitive movements can also lead to hip injuries that cause labral tears.

Arthritis

Osteoarthritis, sometimes called “wear and tear” arthritis, can erode cartilage in the hip joint and lead to labral tears.

How does a doctor diagnose hip labral tears?

Your doctor will examine your hip and may ask you to walk or move your leg and ask about any pain you feel while moving.

Imaging tests are also used to diagnose hip labral tears. Your doctor may use X-rays or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to get a look inside your hip joint.

How are hip labral tears treated?

Nonsurgical treatment

Minor labral tears without structural abnormalities can be managed with rest, physical therapy, and medications, such as over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pain relievers or steroid injections.

Surgical treatment

For some tears, your doctor may recommend hip arthroscopy, a noninvasive procedure in which a surgeon makes small cuts around the joint and inserts a tiny camera and surgical instruments. The surgeon may repair, rebuild, or trim parts of labral tissue. Often the cause of the labral tear (for example, hip impingement) is corrected at the same time.

Last reviewed: 
December 2018

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