Hip labral (labrum) tear

A hip labral tear refers to a tear in a ring of cartilage called the labrum, which circles the outer rim of your hip joint socket. If the labrum is torn, frayed or otherwise damaged, it can cause groin or hip pain, or less commonly, pain in your buttocks. 

Symptoms of a hip labral tear

A hip labral tear often causes no symptoms. However, you may experience groin or hip pain, especially after standing, sitting or walking for a long time. You may also have a reduced range of movement. Your hip may feel stiff and/or click, catch or lock when you move it. 

What causes a hip labral tear?

  • Injury or dislocation of your hip joint eg during a car accident or when playing contact sports, such as football or rugby
  • Repeated movements — certain activities, such as long-distance running and golf involve repeated movements of the hip joint that can wear it down and cause a hip labral tear
  • Structural problems — you may be born with a defect in the structure of your hip joint, which makes it wear down faster and so increases your risk of a hip labral tear

Complications of a hip labral tear

A hip labral tear increases your risk of developing osteoarthritis in the affected hip joint.

Diagnosis of a labral hip tear

Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and perform a physical examination. They may also refer you for imaging tests, such as: 

  • An X-ray to detect problems that affect your hip bones and can, therefore, cause hip pain and/or a hip labral tear eg femoroacetabular impingement or osteoarthritis
  • MRI scan to detect problems with the soft tissues in your hip joint — this can help identify the location and severity of your hip labral tear

Hip labral treatment

A hip labral tear doesn’t get better on its own and needs treatment. However, if you have a minor hip labral tear, you can ease some of your symptoms by resting and taking anti-inflammatory medications eg ibuprofen. 

Depending on the severity of your hip labral tear, your doctor may recommend steroid injections to reduce inflammation and pain, as well as physiotherapy. More severe hip labral tears may need surgery.

Surgery for a hip labral tear

Surgery to repair a hip labral tear is usually done via keyhole surgery, which is minimally invasive — this is called a hip arthroscopy. It involves making several small cuts into your hip to insert special surgical instruments and a thin, telescope-like tube with a light and a camera on the end (an arthroscope). 

A hip arthroscopy may involve: 

  • Reconstructing damaged tissue using healthy tissue from a donor or another part of your body
  • Removing a small piece of the damaged labrum
  • Repairing the torn labrum by stitching it back together

Hip arthroscopy is often done as a day case, so you can return home on the same day as your procedure. 

Recovering from hip labral tear surgery

Hip arthroscopy can resolve pain caused by a hip labral tear and return full range of movement to your hip. A complete recovery from surgery usually takes four to six months, after which you can return to your usual activities, including sports.

Hip labral tear FAQs

How painful is a hip labral tear?

Depending on how bad your hip labral tear is, your pain may vary from mild to severe. In many cases, you may not experience any hip pain. 

Is a labrum tear serious?

Depending on the severity of your hip labral tear, it can cause pain, restricted movement and locking of your hip.

What happens if a labral tear goes untreated?

In most cases, a hip labral tear needs treatment to get better. Without treatment, it can worsen and cause severe pain, as well as restrict the movement of your hip. 

What aggravates hip labral tear?

Walking, sitting and standing for long periods of time can worsen a hip labral tear, as can any other physical activities that require repetitive movements of your hip. 

We hope you've found this article useful, however, it cannot be a substitute for a consultation with a specialist

If you're concerned about symptoms you're experiencing or require further information on the subject, talk to a GP or see an expert consultant at your local Spire hospital.

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Author Information

Cahoot Care Marketing

Niched in the care sector, Cahoot Care Marketing offers a full range of marketing services for care businesses including: SEO, social media, websites and video marketing, specialising in copywriting and content marketing.

Over the last five years Cahoot Care Marketing has built an experienced team of writers and editors, with broad and deep expertise on a range of care topics. They provide a responsive, efficient and comprehensive service, ensuring content is on brand and in line with relevant medical guidelines.

Their writers and editors include care sector workers, healthcare copywriting specialists and NHS trainers, who thoroughly research all topics using reputable sources including the NHS, NICE, relevant Royal Colleges and medical associations.

The Spire Content Hub project was managed by:

Lux Fatimathas, Editor and Project Manager

Lux has a BSc(Hons) in Neuroscience from UCL, a PhD in Cellular and Molecular Biology from the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and experience as a postdoctoral researcher in developmental biology. She has a clear and extensive understanding of the biological and medical sciences. Having worked in scientific publishing for BioMed Central and as a writer for the UK’s Medical Research Council and the National University of Singapore, she is able to clearly communicate complex concepts.

Catriona Shaw, Lead Editor

Catriona has an English degree from the University of Southampton and more than 12 years’ experience copy editing across a range of complex topics. She works with a diverse team of writers to create clear and compelling copy to educate and inform.

Alfie Jones, Director — Cahoot Care Marketing

Alfie has a creative writing degree from UCF and initially worked as a carer before supporting his family’s care training business with copywriting and general marketing. He has worked in content marketing and the care sector for over 10 years and overseen a diverse range of care content projects, building a strong team of specialist writers and marketing creatives after founding Cahoot in 2016.