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Labral tear of the hip

The hip joint is a ‘ball and socket’ joint. The top of the leg bone is rounded and fits into a cup shaped socket with a cartilage rim around it. This cartilage rim surrounding the hip socket is called a labrum and along with muscles and ligaments, helps to hold the joint closely together.

In the case of a tear of the labrum, the hip may become painful with certain motions.

A tear may happen from sudden or unexpected strain on the hip, such as a fall, or an unexpected pull or twisting of the leg. Sports injuries are common causes. Heavy repetitive use which places an extra or unusual strain on this joint, such as lifting weights, may also cause a tear of the labrum.

If a labral tear causes symptoms, a catching or clicking may be felt with certain motions which may be painful. The hip joint may feel as though it locks or is unstable. The pain is generally in the front of the hip joint, near the groin, although it may be in other locations depending on which part of the labrum is torn.

Along with a history of any injury or abnormal use of the hip, a physical examination using specific motions may suggest that a tear of the hip labrum is present. Usually X-rays are done, but because the labrum is made of cartilage X-rays and CT scans may not show a torn labrum. MRI testing is often the best test (sometimes done using a contrast material injected into the joint). Ultimately, the best test is directly looking at the hip joint with an arthoscope (a flexible instrument with a camera is inserted through a small incision in the skin near the hip).

The treatment of a hip labrum tear depends upon how severely it affects the function of the hip, as well as how painful it is. Initial treatment often consists of physical therapy and exercises to reduce the pain and stiffness and improve motion in the joint. For severe cases, arthroscopic surgery may performed, which allows an orthopedic surgeon may use an arthroscope and instruments to examine and repair the problem.

Medications such as Tylenol (generic = acetaminophen) Aleve (generic = naproxen), Motrin (generic = ibuprofen) or aspirin may be recommended to help the pain. Various prescription medications which belong to a group of medications called ‘non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (or ‘NSAIDs’ for short) are commonly recommended. Some of the more commonly prescribed of these include medications such as Celebrex, Motrin, Naprosyn, Mobic or Voltaren (a complete list is available at the reference below).

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