Hip labral tears are a fairly common injury, both on the playing field and as a result of chronic conditions. Torn hip labrums are frequently seen in sports that require sharp cutting movements such as soccer, football, and basketball, especially in athletes with hip dysplasia.
However, a hip labral tear can also develop in a slower, less dramatic fashion. Over time, certain chronic conditions or simple everyday wear and tear from repetitive motions may lead to hip labral tears. It goes without saying that hip pain and discomfort often limit a person’s mobility, leading to diminished overall quality of life. Fortunately, there are many hip labral tear treatments for patients to consider, including nonsurgical therapies and minimally invasive arthroscopic procedures. In this post, we will discuss the anatomy of the hip joint, as well as hip labral tear causes, symptoms, effective therapy, and more.
Before we touch on hip labral tear treatment options, we first need to go over a quick anatomy lesson on the overall structure of the hip joint. The hip is a ball and socket joint. The “ball” portion of the joint is composed of the top of the thigh bone, known as the femoral head. The “socket” portion is formed by a bone called the acetabulum and a rim of fibrocartilage known as the labrum. This fibrocartilage extends the socket and increases the overall stability of the joint. The labrum also allows the ball and socket joint to operate smoothly during activity. If this soft surrounding cartilage is damaged, the joint is unable to function correctly. This is what we know as a labral tear. It’s important to note that, while labral tears may result from acute injuries, most labrum tears are the result of femoroacetabular impingement (FAI), a condition known more commonly as hip impingement. This condition is characterized by extra bone around the femoral head and the acetabulum, preventing the joint from gliding properly during movement. Eventually, contact between the labrum and the bony protrusions on the femoral head may lead to labral tears and cartilage damage. Other chronic conditions such as hip osteoarthritis may also cause hip labral tears.
RELATED: Feel free to read more about hip impingement here.
Now that we’ve talked about what a hip labral tear is, the next question is how to recognize one. So, what are the symptoms of a hip labral tear? Although only a medical professional can provide a definitive diagnosis, there are many common hip labral tear symptoms individuals experience as a result of acute or chronic injuries. Pain along the front of the hip joint, or groin region is one of the most frequent hip labral tear symptoms. In fact, up to 55 percent of individuals experiencing hip or groin pain are suffering from a hip labral tear, according to research published in Current Reviews in Musculoskeletal Medicine. Joint soreness and stiffness are also common torn hip labrum symptoms. The intensity of pain and other symptoms varies by individual and by the severity of the damage. Some patients with diagnosable hip labral tears may not experience any noticeable pain at all. Some patients also report experiencing the hip locking up during everyday use. Other patients may feel hip clicking or hear hip popping during normal movements.
Before an appropriate treatment regimen can be determined, the hip labral tear will first need to be professionally diagnosed. To rule out other conditions and determine the severity of the injury, your doctor will first perform a physical examination of the area, including a hip labral tear test. Today, the FADDIR test is the standard method of checking for a hip labrum tear. The FADDIR test is an acronym for “Flexion, Abduction, and Internal Rotation.” While administering the test, the doctor will guide the patient through a series of movements designed to test the overall strength and range of motion of the hip joint while noting any pain, discomfort, hip clicking and diminished range of motion. Additional testing such as X-ray and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may also be used to diagnose the underlying condition.
Many patients inquire about hip labral tear recovery without surgery. Simply put, a hip labral tear will not heal without surgical treatment. However, many less severe hip labral tears can be managed for years, sometimes even indefinitely, with nonsurgical treatment. When beginning a nonsurgical treatment plan, your physician may start by recommending small lifestyle adjustments to minimize the pain and discomfort related to hip labral tears.
For some, this may include a weight loss regimen to minimize the amount of weight and stress on the hip joint during activity. Other patients may be encouraged to tweak their activities and fitness routines, reducing the frequency or intensity of activities known to cause hip labral tear symptom flare-ups. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (also known as NSAIDs) may be used to relieve minor aches and labrum hip pain symptoms. The RICE method may also be recommended to help alleviate torn hip labrum symptoms such as swelling and inflammation. RICE stands for rest, ice, compression, elevation, and it’s a popular home treatment for inflamed injuries, as well as for pain and discomfort following rigorous activity. Ice and heat therapy can also relax the surrounding tissues and minimize hip stiffness. In a recent blog post, we detailed a comprehensive guide on when to use ice or heat therapy for a range of conditions.
RELATED: Feel free to read more about appropriate ice or heat therapy here.
Physical therapy for torn hip labrum is another common nonsurgical treatment option. Torn labrum hip exercises are designed to strengthen the surrounding tissues and also increase range of motion. In general, hip labrum rehab exercises will focus on strength training and stretching, to support the joint and provide stability during activity. During hip labrum physical therapy, a therapist will first guide patients through the proper execution of these various exercises. Then, patients are encouraged to perform these torn labrum hip exercises at home. The physical therapist will design a personalized physical therapy program with exercises and repetition goals for patients to follow for best results.
If a patient has not experienced relief with the aforementioned nonsurgical options, the overseeing medical professional may recommend torn labrum hip surgery. In the past, open surgeries were often used to treat hip labral tears. Today, minimally invasive arthroscopic procedures are used, offering patients faster recovery times as well as less post-operative pain and swelling compared to open techniques. During arthroscopic hip labrum surgery, a series of small incisions are made around the hip joint. A small camera is inserted through one of these incisions to give the surgeon visual access to the joint. Next, a series of surgical instruments are inserted to remove frayed or damaged portions of the labrum. Excess bone growths and loose fragments may also be shaved or removed from the area to allow the hip joint to operate smoothly during activity. For patients who are suffering from labral tears resulting from osteoarthritis of the hip, treatment will focus on restoring function to the arthritic joint. In instances of severe hip osteoarthritis, your doctor may recommend hip labrum surgery, or partial or total joint replacement.
Many patients are eager to inquire about their anticipated labral tear hip surgery recovery time. That said, it’s important to remember that each procedure and recovery will be different for each individual. Postoperative recovery times vary depending on the severity of the hip labrum tear, related chronic conditions, and other factors. However, most patients should expect to use crutches for the first two weeks following hip labrum surgery. For some patients, it may take up to six months to make a full hip labrum surgery recovery. However long the process takes for you, your doctor will monitor your progress during hip labral tear surgery recovery and recommend a rehab strategy, including torn labrum hip exercises when appropriate.
At Sports Medicine Oregon, we specialize in both the latest conservative care treatment options and the latest arthroscopic surgical techniques to treat hip labral tears. If you or a loved one are being held back by the pain and discomfort related to a hip labral tear, come in for a consultation to learn more about the latest treatment options. Our team is dedicated to helping patients achieve their active lifestyle goals without limitations.
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