Hip Labral Tear

A hip labral tear is damage to the cartilage that lines and protects your hip socket. Femoroacetabular impingement (FAI) is the most common cause. You might only need conservative treatments like over-the-counter medicine and physical therapy. You’ll need surgery (a hip arthroscopy) to repair more serious tears.


The hip labrum is a soft, protective lining in your hip socket. Tears cause pain and stiffness.
The hip labrum lines the space between your femur and pelvis in your hip joint. If it’s torn, your bones may rub together.

What is a hip labral tear?

A hip labral tear is an injury to the labrum in your hip joint. The labrum is a rim of cartilage that lines your hip socket.

Joints are places in your body where two bones meet. Your hip joint is the connection between your thigh bone (femur) and your hip bone (pelvis). The top of your femur (the femoral head) is shaped like a ball that fits into the socket in your pelvis (the acetabulum).

The hip labrum is a soft, protective lining around the acetabulum that protects the socket and prevents your bones from grinding against each other when they move. It helps your hip bones move smoothly and seals the space between them. It makes sure the bones are held together but not directly touching.

Hip labral tears happen when something damages the labrum. Visit a healthcare provider if you’re feeling pain or stiffness in your hip that doesn’t get better in a few weeks.


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Symptoms and Causes

What are hip labral tear symptoms?

The most common symptoms of a labral tear in your hip include:

  • Hip pain (especially when you bend, move, exercise or play sports).
  • Stiffness.
  • A clicking or popping sound and feeling when you move your hip.
  • Feeling unsteady or unstable when you’re standing or moving.

Some people with a small labral hip tear have no symptoms. They may never know they have one unless it’s diagnosed when a healthcare provider sees it on imaging tests for other issues.

What does a hip labral tear feel like?

Everyone experiences pain differently, and which kind of hip pain you feel depends on how severely your labrum is torn — and if you have other injuries. The pain usually feels like:

  • A constant dull ache.
  • Sharp and stabbing in certain positions or during certain activities (like lying on that side or during exercise).
  • It comes from deeper inside your body (not close to the surface like a cramp or muscle pain). It might feel like bone pain.
  • It spreads (radiates). Some people with a hip labral tear feel pain in their groin, lower back or leg. You might change how you walk, move or hold your body without knowing you’re doing it. This unconscious change to your posture can put stress on muscles and other tissue around your injured hip.

What causes hip labral tears?

Anything that puts too much pressure on your hip can damage the joint and tear your labrum. The most common causes include:

  • Femoroacetabular impingement (FAI): FAI happens when your hip joint naturally doesn’t fit together as it should. If the bones don’t come together properly, they put extra pressure on your hip labrum. Eventually, that pressure and any friction can tear the labrum. Providers also call FAI hip impingement.
  • Injuries: Sports injuries, falls and car accidents can all cause hip labral tears.
  • Osteoarthritis: Osteoarthritis is “wear and tear” arthritis. Normal, everyday stress on your joints adds up over time to cause it. If you have osteoarthritis, cartilage in your joint can wear down enough to tear your labrum.

What are the risk factors?

Anyone can experience an injury or trauma that damages their hip joint and tears their hip labrum. Athletes who play sports that put a lot of pressure on their hips have a higher risk, including:

  • Hockey.
  • Dance.
  • Football.
  • Soccer.
  • Golf.
  • Gymnastics.


Diagnosis and Tests

How do healthcare providers diagnose labral tears in hips?

A healthcare provider will diagnose a hip labral tear with a physical exam and some tests. They’ll examine your hip and ask you about your symptoms. Tell your provider when you first noticed pain and other symptoms, and if any activities, movements or positions make them worse.

Your provider might have you move and use your hip. They’ll ask you to stand, bend and walk. Tell your provider if any of these movements hurt — and which ones are the most painful.

Your provider will probably need imaging tests to take pictures of your hip joint and the tissue around it. They might use:

Management and Treatment

What are hip labral tear treatments?

Your provider will suggest treatments to manage your symptoms. Surgery is the only way to repair a hip labral tear, but some people can manage their symptoms with nonsurgical treatments.

The most common treatments for hip labral tears are:

  • Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers: NSAIDs (like ibuprofen, aspirin and naproxen) or acetaminophen reduce inflammation and relieve pain. Don’t take pain relievers for more than 10 days in a row without talking to your provider.
  • Corticosteroids: Corticosteroids are prescription anti-inflammatory medications. Your provider may inject a corticosteroid directly into your hip joint.
  • Physical therapy: A physical therapist will give you stretches and exercises to strengthen the muscles around your affected hip joint and increase your flexibility.

Hip labral tear surgery

Your healthcare provider might recommend surgery to repair the tear in your hip labrum if you’re experiencing severe symptoms or if other treatments haven’t worked after a few months.

Your surgeon will usually perform a hip arthroscopy. They’ll repair the tear in your hip labrum and fix other damage inside your hip joint. If you have hip impingement, they might reshape the bones in your joint so they fit together better.

Hip arthroscopies are usually outpatient procedures, which means you can go home the same day. Your provider or surgeon will tell you what to expect.

Can a tear heal on its own?

No, hip labral tears can’t heal on their own. Surgery is the only way to repair a torn hip labrum. Some tears are so small that they don’t cause pain or other symptoms, but even those won’t heal without surgical repair.

However, if you’re not experiencing severe symptoms and the labral tear isn’t affecting your quality of life or daily routine, you can live with it without needing surgery.

Never ignore pain, stiffness or other symptoms. Visit a healthcare provider if you have hip pain that doesn’t get better with rest and at-home treatments in a few weeks.



How can I prevent a hip labral tear?

You usually can’t prevent a hip labral tear. That’s because most of them are caused by the natural shape of your hip joint (if you have FAI), a health condition that you can’t prevent (like osteoarthritis) or unexpected injuries.

Follow these general safety tips to reduce your risk of an injury:

  • Make sure your home and workspace are free from clutter that could trip you or others.
  • Always use the proper tools or equipment at home to reach things. Never stand on chairs, tables or countertops.
  • Use a cane or walker if you have difficulty walking or have an increased risk of falls.

During sports or other physical activities:

  • Wear the proper protective equipment.
  • Don’t “play through the pain” if your hip hurts during or after physical activity.
  • Give your body time to rest and recover after intense activity.
  • Stretch and warm up before playing sports or working out.
  • Cool down and stretch after physical activity.

Outlook / Prognosis

What can I expect if I have a hip labral tear?

Most people with a tear in their hip labrum find a combination of treatments that manages their symptoms. Talk to your provider if you’re still feeling pain or other symptoms after trying medications or physical therapy. They’ll tell you when you should consider surgery.

Even though hip labral tears don’t heal on their own, you shouldn’t have to live in constant pain or discomfort. Talk to your provider if it feels like your symptoms are changing — especially if they’re getting worse or affecting your ability to participate in your daily routine.

How long does it take to recover?

It usually takes around four to six months to recover after a hip arthroscopy. Your surgeon will tell you what to expect based on your unique needs.

If you’re using conservative (nonsurgical) treatments, there might not be a set recovery timeline. That’s because medications and physical therapy technically don’t repair the tear. However, you may never need surgery if you can manage your symptoms and they don’t affect your day-to-day activities.

Can you still walk with a torn labrum in your hip?

Many people can walk with a hip labral tear. Some people feel no pain. Others can walk and move, but will feel noticeably uncomfortable.

Even if you can walk, move or exercise with a hip labral tear, it might not be safe to do intense physical activity. Talk to your provider about which activities are safest.

Living With

When should I see my healthcare provider?

Hip pain is very common, and you can treat many causes at home with rest, ice and over-the-counter pain relievers. Visit a healthcare provider if pain, stiffness and other symptoms in your hip don’t get better on their own after a few weeks. Don’t ignore pain that comes back (recurs) or feels like it’s getting worse.

Go to the emergency room if you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms:

  • Severe hip or groin pain.
  • You experience trauma like a fall or car accident.
  • You can’t move or put any weight on your hip or leg.

What questions should I ask my provider?

  • Do I have a hip labral tear or another injury?
  • Which tests will I need?
  • Which nonsurgical treatments will be best for me?
  • When should I consider having surgery?
  • Which activities or sports should I avoid?

Additional Common Questions

How serious is a labral tear in the hip?

How serious a hip labral tear is depends on what caused it and how much it’s affecting your ability to use your hip. Some tears are so small or mild that you may never know that you even have one. You might only need physical therapy or over-the-counter medications to manage occasional symptoms of a mild tear.

Some hip labral tears are serious enough to require surgery. These types of tears cause severe pain and make it hard (or impossible) to move or stay active.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

It’s scary to hear that something inside your body is torn, but you’ll have lots of options to manage a hip labral tear. Your provider will probably suggest a few months of nonsurgical treatments first. Many people can manage their symptoms well enough not to need surgery. However, if you’re still in pain after a while, you might need a hip arthroscopy.

Whether or not you need surgery to repair a tear in your hip labrum, talk to your provider about how you’re feeling. You shouldn’t have to live in pain, and it’s not healthy to be uncomfortable all the time. Be honest with your provider about what you’re feeling and how much your symptoms affect your day-to-day activities. They’ll help you find ways to feel like yourself again.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 10/24/2023.

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