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.
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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The most common symptoms of a labral tear in your hip include:
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.
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:
Anything that puts too much pressure on your hip can damage the joint and tear your labrum. The most common causes include:
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:
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:
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:
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.
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.
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:
During sports or other physical activities:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 10/24/2023.
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