5 Signs of a Labral Tear

Hip pain is a common medical complaint for both women and men, affecting up to 40% of athletes and active adults and about 15% of all people over age 60. Various conditions can cause hip pain, including tears of the labrum, the cartilage ring that helps your hips move smoothly.

As a leading orthopedic surgeon in Houston, Texas, Joshua D. Harris, MD, uses advanced diagnostic techniques to diagnose and evaluate labral tears, so he can provide customized, patient-centered treatment aimed at resolving symptoms and restoring normal joint function. Here’s how to tell if your labrum might be causing your hip symptoms.

Labrum anatomy 101

Your hip is a ball-and-socket joint. During normal movement, the joint’s ball portion (called the femoral head) glides within the socket part (or acetabulum). The labrum is a ring of cartilage located along the socket’s rim that helps keep the ball in place. (Your shoulder, another ball-and-socket joint, also has a labrum.)

Labral tears in the hip are more common among people who use their hips and legs for strenuous activities. That includes people who play sports like soccer, hockey, golf, football, track and field, yoga, high-intensity interval exercise programs, among many others, and people who use their hips for repeated movements at work. 

People with osteoarthritis or abnormal hip anatomy also have an increased risk of labral tears. The risk of a labral tear increases with age, as years of wear and tear take their toll on your hip joint.

The most common cause of a labral tear is femoroacetabular impingement (FAI). Other less common causes include acetabular dysplasia and hip instability. 

It is important to remember that it is not uncommon to have minimally symptomatic, or even asymptomatic, labral tears. This is why your doctor should remember to “treat patients, not MRI’s”. This is what Dr. Harris does in his practice.

5 signs of a torn labrum

The symptoms of a torn or damaged labrum can be significant or subtle. Paying attention to those symptoms can help Dr. Harris during his evaluation. Here are five common signs to look for.

#1: Hip or groin pain

One of the functions of the labrum is to allow the hip joint to move smoothly. If the labrum is torn, the joint can become irritated and inflamed, leading to pain in the joint, the groin area, or even extending into your buttocks.

#2: Stiffness or decreased range of movement

Labral tears tend to affect how far your hip can “swing” and move. Many people with a labral tear will find their range of motion is limited, or they might have some stiffness when they try to use their hips — even when trying to stand, sit, or climb stairs. These symptoms can occur with or without accompanying pain. Labral tears and FAI tend to hurt more with sitting/seated positions, rather than upright/standing positions.

#3: Clicking sounds

When the smooth movement of the ball-and-socket mechanism is interrupted by torn tissue, it can cause clicking noises when the joint is used. You might notice clicking with every step or with specific movements, like moving from a sitting to a standing position.

#4: Weakness in the hip

Your hip joint relies on the labrum to hold the ball inside the socket. If the labrum is torn, you might notice your hip feels weak, or your leg feels like it’s about to “give way” when placing weight on your leg.

#5: Catching sensations

The labrum’s smooth surface helps your hip joint rotate and bend smoothly, too. If the labrum is torn, you might notice a sticking or “catching” sensation when you bend or flex your hip.

Most symptoms tend to worsen with movements, especially any movement involving bending or rotating at the hips or shifting weight from one leg to the other. 

Get treatment for your hip symptoms

You don’t need to be an athlete — or even particularly active — to depend on healthy, normal hip function. If you’re having any hip problem or symptom, having your hips evaluated is the best way to prevent more serious issues that could dramatically affect your quality of life. To schedule your evaluation with Dr. Harris, call the office and request an appointment today.

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