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HealthInfo Canterbury

Hip labral tears

Your hip joint has a rim of cartilage called the labrum. The labrum helps keep fluid in your hip joint, to cushion it when you're doing activities like walking, running and jumping.

A labral tear is an injury that damages the labrum. It can be caused by falling or by a car or cycling accident. It can also be caused by overusing your hip in activities such as ballet, cricket and soccer.

The shape of your hip bones can put you more at risk of having a labral tear. A slight abnormality in the shape of your hip joint called femoroacetabular impingement (FAI) is one condition that puts you more at risk. Another is if you were diagnosed with hip dysplasia when you were younger.

You can feel pain from a labral tear at the front or back of your hip. People describe it as a catching pain with a weakness in their hip as well as a stiffness at the limit of their hip movement range.

Preventing hip labral tears

Because labral tears often happen because of the shape of your hip bones, it's difficult to prevent them.

If you have FAI or were diagnosed with hip dysplasia when you were younger, it's a good idea to avoid sustained or rapid and repetitive movements that use your hips at the end of their movement range. Examples of activities that can cause problems are long-distance running and the sudden twisting or pivoting motions common in golf or softball.

Diagnosing hip labral tears

If your doctor suspects you have a labral tear, you may need an MRI scan. You may also need an X-ray to check the shape of your hip bones.

Your specialist may also use an ultrasound-guided injection to help diagnose a labral tear. If your pain temporarily goes away after the injection, it proves that the labral tear seen on the scan is the source of your pain.

Treating hip labral tears

A physiotherapist can give you advice about activities to avoid or reduce. They'll also give you exercises to improve the strength of the muscles that support your hip joint.

If your hip pain doesn't improve with physiotherapy, you may be referred to an orthopaedic surgeon to consider whether you might need surgery.

Self-care for hip labral tears

The best thing you can do if you have FAI, were diagnosed with hip dysplasia when you were younger or are overly flexible, is to avoid too many movements that take your hips to the limits of their natural movement. Try to avoid too much deep squatting or taking very long strides when walking.

Regularly doing strengthening exercises will also help protect your hip joints. It’s also a good idea to do regular activities such as running, swimming, cycling and hill walking.

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Page created May 2021.

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Review key: HIHIL-240273