Hip Labral Tear

The hip is a ball-and-socket joint that allows mobility and stability, and is susceptible to injuries such as a hip labral tear. Although this can happen to anyone, it most often occurs in athletes who take part in high-impact sports. Here is everything you need to know about hip labral tears and the treatment options available in Singapore.



What is a hip labral tear?

A hip labral tear is an injury to the labrum, a strong, fibrous tissue lining the acetabulum (bony socket) of the hip joint. The labrum provides a suction seal for the hip joint and is important in joint lubrication, stress distribution and stability. When a hip labral tear occurs, you may experience pain, a reduced range of motion in the hip and clicking or locking sensation.

a person holding his/her back pain


What are the causes of a hip labral tear?

Suffering a traumatic injury to your hip is one of the most common causes of a hip labral tear; you are at greater risk if you play certain sports with repetitive twisting, high bending and high-impact movements, such as soccer, martial arts and hockey. Hip labral tears commonly occur with underlying deformities of the hip, such as hip dysplasia and femoroacetabular impingement. Other causes include regular wear and tear in older patients, and degenerative conditions such as osteoarthritis.

What are the symptoms of a hip labral tear?

The most common complaint is pain in the front and side of the hip, groin or buttock which typically worsens with high impact, or bending and turning activities, such as sitting or walking for a long time, trying to put on shoes and socks, getting in and out of cars, and while playing sports. If you are suffering from a hip labral tear, you may also experience stiffness in the hip, feel unsteady on your feet, and notice a clicking or locking sensation around the hip when moving. It is important that you seek prompt medical attention if any of these symptoms are present for an accurate diagnosis of your condition and the appropriate treatment.


When you visit an orthopaedic clinic for a hip labral tear, the doctor will first perform a physical examination by checking for limitations in the movements of your hip and doing provocative tests to try to reproduce your pain. You will be asked questions to clarify the nature of your pain and if you have any history of sports injuries, trauma or childhood hip conditions. Most of the time, imaging tests like an MRI scan will be ordered to confirm the labral tear and check the extent of damage, while an X-ray or CT scan may be ordered to check if there are any associated bony deformities in the hip.


A hip labral tear usually does not heal on its own but non-invasive treatments are useful to help control symptoms. Conservative treatments include pain relievers, anti-inflammatory medications, activity modification, and physical therapy to maintain the flexibility of the hip and strengthen the surrounding muscles. If the pain continues to persist, you may consider a hip steroid injection, which is performed under X-ray or ultrasound control.
If conservative treatments prove to be ineffective, your tear is extensive or there is an underlying bony deformity, your orthopaedic specialist may recommend surgery. Most hip labral tears can be treated with hip arthroscopy (keyhole hip surgery) where small incisions are made and a camera and specialised instruments are used to enter your hip joint. During the procedure, the torn labrum or damaged cartilage is repaired. Bony deformities of the acetabulum (socket) and femoral head and neck (ball) that predispose to the tear may also be corrected within the same setting. This is a technically demanding procedure that should be performed by properly trained specialists. However, the keyhole procedure results in less pain and joint stiffness and shortens the recovery time for patients as compared to open surgery. In good hands, most patients can expect to return to their regular activities including sports.


What is the prognosis for someone who has had a hip labral tear?
Each individual’s body is unique and hence, no recovery process is exactly the same. If you have chosen conservative treatment methods, then it means leaving the tear alone but working towards decreasing pain; sometimes, additional treatments may be needed in the future. If you have undergone surgery for a hip labral tear, you will recover within 4 to 6 months and can return to physical activity afterwards.
When should I consult my doctor about my hip labral tear?
Although hip pain is not a life-threatening condition, ignoring the signs and symptoms may result in the worsening of the labral tear and damage to your hip joint condition, affecting your quality of life. Dr Poh is renowned for his experience in hip disorders around the region and has performed a high volume of hip arthroscopy cases. Do not hesitate to reach out to us should you be experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above. Prompt treatment is the key to helping you get back to doing what you love.


Frequently Asked Question (FAQ)

1) How long is recovery from a Hip Labral Tear?

If conservative treatments like anti-inflammatory medication, activity modification, or physical therapy are prescribed then you can expect the recovery time from a Hip Labral Tear to take anywhere between 8 to 12 weeks.
If conservative treatments haven’t worked and you are asked to undergo a hip arthroscopy, then the recovery timeline is likely to be longer. It may take up to three months for you to return to low-intensity exercise while more than four months may be required to get back to your regular routine.

2) What happens if a Hip Labral Tear goes untreated?

An untreated Hip Labral Tear will likely cause chronic pain and instability in your hip. This can lead to further damage and may result in conditions like osteoarthritis or other hip conditions that may require surgical intervention.

3) Can Hip Labral Tears heal on their own?

Unfortunately, Hip Labral Tears will not heal on their own without conservative treatments or surgical interventions. Continual usage of your hip after a Hip Labral Tear can aggravate the condition and lead to more severe injuries.