Labral hip tear

A labral tear in the hip is an injury that affects the tissue that holds the ball and socket parts of the hip joint together. 

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At HCA UK, our specialist consultants offer a range of advanced treatments for hip labral tears. We offer: 

  • Appointments with hip specialists confirmed within 24 hours
  • Quality care provided by expert orthopaedic consultants
  • Labral hip tear treatment at state-of-the-art facilities

What is a labral tear?

The labrum is the rubbery ring of cartilage surrounding joints including the shoulder and hip. In the hip, this cartilage lines the acetabulum, which is the hip socket where the head of the thigh bone (femur) sits. The labrum absorbs friction caused by activity that affects the hip joint and shares the force created equally across the hip. A labral tear in the hip occurs when the labrum is damaged, which usually takes place over an extended period.

What can cause a labral hip tear? 

Some of the most common causes of hip labral tears include: 

  • Trauma: Such as a car accident or falling awkwardly
  • Sporting activities: Commonly those associated with impact, such as rugby
  • Repetition: Where the hip joint is affected by recurring movements caused by activities like golf, running, or rotational movements such as dancing
  • Structural deformities: Femoroacetabular impingement (FAI) is a condition where the hip ball (femoral head) does not quite fit the joint socket. Hip dysplasia can also cause damage to the labrum. 

Are there different types of hip labral tears?

There are two types of hip labral tear. The one you have depends on the part of the joint that’s affected and your doctor may refer to either an anterior or posterior tear.

  • Anterior: This is the most common type of hip labral tear. It occurs at the front of the hip and is usually caused by repetitive movements, such as twisting or pivoting.   
  • Posterior: These tears occur at the back of the hip. They are usually caused by traumatic injuries that affect the rear part of the hip joint.

What are the symptoms of a labral hip tear?

The most common reason people seek an appointment with a hip specialist is to diagnose a pain in the groin. Pain caused by a tear can also be felt in the side of the hip and deep within the buttocks. The pain is the result of the nerve endings contained in the labrum triggering a response from the pain fibres.  

You may also feel like your hip is catching or clicking as you move it, or that it is locking up or giving way. The labrum helps to keep the ball and socket of the hip correctly aligned. Therefore, a tear can alter the way the hip moves and feels.

Symptoms are commonly experienced during periods of activity. Pain can also occur during extended sitting, such as when driving long distances or working at a desk. If symptoms persist, the tear could worsen. This can cause pain and discomfort during sustained activities such as walking, sitting and standing.

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How is a labral hip tear diagnosis confirmed?

To make a labral hip tear diagnosis, your consultant will discuss your symptoms with you. They’ll ask about the injury and any repetitive movements you regularly make that may have strained the hip. 

If your consultant thinks you may have a labral hip tear, they will refer you for some imaging. An MRI scan is the most effective way to diagnose a labral hip tear because the resulting image shows the soft tissue around the hip joint.

People occasionally have a diagnostic injection when undergoing tests for a suspected hip labral tear. 

Another way of identifying a hip labral tear is with an X-ray. This may also help rule out hip dysplasia and FAI.

What are the potential labral hip tear treatment options?

Recovery from a labral hip tear is possible without surgery. Non-surgical treatments include: 

  • Rest: Reducing movements that might aggravate the symptoms is one of the first recommendations made by doctors in the treatment of labral hip tears. If sporting activity caused the tear, you may need to stop for a while to avoid further damage
  • Physiotherapy: Our team of experts provide therapeutic techniques designed to rehabilitate the hip joint.
  • Anti-inflammatory medicine: Ibuprofen is often recommended as it can help reduce inflammation and manage pain.
  • Steroid injections: Steroid (cortisone) injections may be offered to relieve pain and reduce swelling. If you need anaesthetic, your doctor might offer some to numb the area or mix the steroid with the anaesthetic. The steroid is then injected into your hip joint. Your doctor might use ultrasound to guide the needle.   

Your consultant will let you know what would be the most effective treatment option for you.

Hip labral tear surgery

If non-surgical methods don't work and the pain persists, your consultant may suggest surgery. 

Arthroscopic surgery is the most common type of surgery used for a repair of a hip labral tear. During hip arthroscopy, an orthopaedic surgeon makes small incisions to access the hip. They then use a small camera, called an arthroscope, to examine the affected area. Images of the tear appear on a monitor and, if necessary, your surgeon passes surgical tools through the incisions to repair the tear.  

Arthroscopic surgery for a hip labral tear may include: 

  • Stitching the tear: If the tear is clear of debris, it may just need to be stitched up using sterile thread. 
  • Removing frayed pieces of labrum: This is a type of keyhole surgery known as arthroscopic debridement and is the process of removing debris from a damaged joint. The surgeon will wash out any loose debris from the tear to the cartilage. They will then trim and reattach the torn cartilage when possible.  
  • Labral reconstruction: This process uses tissues from other parts of the body - typically the hip - to replace a missing part of the labrum. The surgeon implants small amounts of tissue to the edge of the acetabulum then uses sterile thread to connect the implanted tissue to the existing healthy tissue in the labrum.

Following surgery, you’ll undergo a period of rehabilitation and gradually return to activity once the joint is fully recovered. Athletes should be able to return to their sport after about six months.

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Find a hip specialist near you

We have many orthopaedic consultants who specialise in hip and knee conditions. For a full recovery from your labral hip tear, treatment is likely to also be provided by specialist physiotherapists and, in certain cases, sports medicine physicians.

We’ll aim to take you through the hip labral tear recovery process without surgery if it will be effective for you. But if you do require an operation, we make it easy to find the best hip labral tear surgeon near you.

Labral hip tear FAQs

In many cases, people with a labral hip tear do not experience any pain. However, the pain can be mild to severe for some. It depends on the type of tear you have, how long you have had it, and how other factors aggravate it, such as the type of pressure you put on the hips during exercise.

Those affected by a hip labral tear describe anything from a dull ache to a sharp pain when moving the hip in a certain way or during activities that rotate the joint. Pain can also be felt deeper inside the body, rather than as a cramp or muscle pain. Some people with a hip labral tear experience a radiating pain that spreads out from the hip to other areas, including the groin and lower back.

In order to avoid feeling the pain, it’s common for those affected to modify how they walk and move. This, in turn, can then impact their posture and put pressure on other muscles around the hip and lower back, creating other issues, such as back pain.

Anyone can damage or injure their hip in a way that leads to a labral tear. However, there are certain risk factors that make it more common for some people:

Athletes: If you play sports or have a career that requires you to put a lot of pressure on the hips, you’re more likely to experience tears in the labrum. High-impact sports where there’s a lot of tackling and falling, such as football and rugby, increase the risk of a tear forming. Sports that involve a repeated twisting motion of the hips, such as dance and golf, also increase the likelihood of sustaining this type of injury.

Surgery is not always recommended as a form of treatment. Whether you’re likely to require surgery depends on factors such as the extent of the damage, your age, and how successful your initial treatment is. Your doctor may recommend anti-inflammatory medications to begin with, or you might need steroid injections and physiotherapy. In the case of a more symtomatic tear, hip labrum surgery may be required.
You can usually return home on the same day that you have hip labral tear surgery. This is because the repair is done by an arthroscopy, which is a relatively minor procedure. Your hip surgeon will make some small incisions through which they insert a camera and surgical instruments. Any damaged areas of tissue will be removed, and the tear will be repaired.

It can take around three to six months to fully recover after hip labrum surgery. You should be able to return to low-impact work after a couple of weeks and sport after three months, although you’ll need to follow the guidance of your doctor before you do.

You’ll usually be invited to a post-surgery appointment around six to eight weeks after your procedure. Your doctor will examine the hip and ask you questions about your recovery. You’ll also be able to ask any questions you have and any decisions about follow-up treatment will be made.

Why choose HCA UK

Why choose HCA UK?

We offer quick, effective orthopaedic treatment and support for thousands of people every year.

  • Quick access: You can expect swift access to leading consultants and facilities, with appointments confirmed within 24 hours and same-day imaging on offer if required.
  • Expert care: Our orthopaedic consultants ensure the highest levels of care. They also give their time at the London-based teaching hospitals within the NHS.
  • Rapid imaging: We provide leading diagnostic imaging across our diagnostic centres. Our specialist musculoskeletal radiologists report on every scan, ensuring your consultant has the full picture.
  • Complex care: All our services are supported by Intensive Care Units (ITUs), helping people with complex conditions or medical histories.
  • Orthopaedic hub: We are number one in London for private hip treatment. According to Private Healthcare Information Network figures, we treat the most private orthopaedic cases across the capital.
  • Recommended: In our 2022 patient satisfaction survey 96% of our orthopaedic patients were likely or very likely to recommend us.
How to book an appointment

Book an appointment with a hip specialist

Our expert team of hip specialists provide comprehensive, quality care from our network of treatment centres. Book an appointment with one of our hip consultants today.

Our Labral hip tear locations

Institute of Sport Exercise and Health (ISEH)

Institute of Sport Exercise and Health (ISEH)

170 Tottenham Court Road W1T 7HA London
The Harley Street Clinic

The Harley Street Clinic

35 Weymouth Street W1G 8BJ London
The Portland Hospital

The Portland Hospital

205-209 Great Portland Street W1W 5AH London
The Princess Grace Hospital

The Princess Grace Hospital

42-52 Nottingham Place W1U 5NY London
The Lister Hospital

The Lister Hospital

Chelsea Bridge Road, SW1W 8RH London
The Shard Outpatients

The Shard Outpatients

The Shard, 32 St Thomas Street SE1 9BS London

This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.