The Runner’s Guide To Treating & Preventing Labral Tears

Looking for some advice on how to manage labral tear as a runner? Then you have come to the right place.

Here’s the truth.

Although running has a lot to offer, it also puts a lot of stress on your joints, which can increase your injury risk like nothing else.

One of these common running-related issues is hip pain, which is usually blamed on the inflamed labrum, or hip labral tear.

Though not as common as runners’ knee or shin splints, labral tears affect a lot of runners—both beginners and advanced.

The injury is especially common among runners with underlying hip anatomy problems, such as hip impingement or dysplasia.

For many runners, a torn labrum may result in little to no pain, but for others, the condition may put them out of commission for weeks, even months.

In this article, I’ll share with you the full guide to treating and preventing labral tears so you can keep on running strong and pain-free.

Sounds great?

Let’s get to it.

Anatomy

To wrap your head around the labral tear, you’ll want to have a basic understanding of the condition and how it occurs.

Yes, it’s time for anatomy 101.

The hip joint is shaped like a ball-and-socket that‘s the point of articulation between the acetabulum of the pelvis and the head of the femur.

The hip’s amazing anatomy allows it to be super strong and remarkably flexible so it can endure a high load and allow for a wide range of motion. The joint allows for backward, forward, sideways, and rotating movements.

The labrum refers to the cartilage ring that stabilizes your hip joint. It functions your hip’s natural shock absorber,

Also known as the Hip Labrum, the Acetabular Labrum consists of a fibrocartilaginous ring that envelopes the superior 80 percent of the hip socket—the acetabulum.

The main job of this ring is to keep your thighbone in place, providing support and stability for the whole lower body. It provides stability to the area by deepening the hip socket, acting like a rubber seal to manage fluid within the hip, allowing ease of movement.

Labral Tear Explained

Since the hip is a complex joint that lets your leg move in various directions and planes, many variables can cause malfunction or pain—the most common one being a hip labral tear.

When the condition occurs, it’s painful and can result in more instability in the hip.

The Symptoms

Most people suffering from a labral tear usually describe the pain as a burning, dull sensation that refuses to fade instead of a sudden pain that’s typically associated with traditional tears that causes immediate and sharp pain.

In fact, research shows that many people who develop labral tears in their hips don’t report any symptoms. When it’s the case, they can keep on training without causing any excessive breakdown t other hips or without suffering any pain.

However, if the condition is ignored, it can lead to debilitating instability of the hip. Ignoring the injury is the worst thing you can do for a labral tear, and this will only make the condition worse.

What Causes Labral Tears In Runners?

The most common cause of the condition is overuse.

The same is just like any other overuse injury – running too much without letting your body properly adapt to the load.  The injury can also be caused by erratic movement or direct trauma to the joint.

However, in some instances, labral tears can be caused by structural problems of the bone, which get worse over time.

Here’s the good news. There are plenty of treatment and prevention methods that can help repair and protect the damaged joint. This, in turn, should help restore proper hip function and soothe pain from a labral tear.

How Do You Know if You  Have A Labral Tear – The Main Symptom

Experiencing hip pain isn’t enough to accurately diagnose a labral tear since there is a host of conditions that causes hip pain. That’s why a proper diagnosis requires the exclusion of other possible injuries and conditions first.

This typically involves a mix of clinical assessments to check for pain and mobility through the entire hip joint, as well as the use of imaging.

Most people assume that a tear would cause instant and sharp pain, but in most cases, labral tears manifest as a feeling as more of a dull burning sensation.

Other symptoms include:

  • Pain originating in the groin, especially when crossing the legs
  • Grating, pinching, or catching feeling the hip
  • Pain upon internal rotation, flexion, and adduction.
  • Pain when raising the leg against resistance—think Leg Raises
  • Weakness in the muscles surrounding the hip
  • Feeling unsteady on your feet
  • Soreness in the lower back, hips, core, and hamstrings.

Treating Labral Tears

The first step to dealing with labral tears is to stop running—or any other activity that causes hip pain—until the pain goes away.

Running through hip pain, as doing so can only make things worse.

Some of the proven methods for dealing with labral tears include:

  • Physical therapy
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Massage
  • Chiropractic treatment
  • Selective injections
  • Some doctors may recommend a steroid injecting in the joint
  • Improving mobility and function through the hip.

However, if these methods fail to relieve your symptoms, you should consider getting under the knife.

How is a hip labral tear treated?

Here’s the bad news. Serious labral tears cannot be mended without surgery.

Fortunately, you might be able to manage your labral tear for a long time, or even indefinitely, without needing to go under the knife.

In most cases, and according to my research, your doctor may recommend a hip arthroscopy, which is a type of procedure often performed on an outpatient basis.

The procedure uses a small incision of roughly half a centimeter around to either examine the inside of the hip joint or to perform different types of minimally invasive procedures. In the case of a labral tear, the surgeon may either choose to clean—or debride—the affected labrum or reattach it to the socket.

Following surgery, you’ll be out of the hospital on crutches and use them for two to four weeks.

Recovery from a labral tear may take up to six weeks. Depending on the severity of your injury, you might be to fully return to training, sometimes between two to three months.

The Prevention

The best way to prevent labral tear is to improve function and strength throughout your hip region and the surrounding muscles.

In addition, you’ll want to ensure that the muscle and tendons absorb the bulk of the stresses, not the joint.

To protect yourself against labral tears, you’ll want the muscles enveloping your hip to properly absorb the impact of running.

That means building stronger core, glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps muscles.

When you lack strength and motor control in your lower body, you’ll place extra stress on the labrum and the rest of the joint. This increases injury risk, and you don’t want that.

That means that you have to hit the strength room more often, targeting your hip rotators, glutes, quads, hamstrings, and core muscles. The stronger these muscles, the more support, and balance you provide your whole body.