Can a Torn Hip Labrum Heal Itself?

by Annie on February 1, 2011 · 5 comments

in Exercise & Injuries

The short answer is no. A torn hip labrum (or any labral tear) cannot heal itself.  However, when most people are asking this question, they are more interested in whether the pain of a torn hip labrum will disappear over time.  The answer to that question is “it depends.”

Quick overview on your hip labrum

Your hip labrum is a gel-like cartilage that rims your hip socket to hold the hip joint in place, like a suction cup. However, your labrum does not have any nerve endings and no blood supply. The labrum receives its nourishment from the flow of fluids in your hip. Because there is no blood supply, your labrum cannot technically “heal itself.”

When your hip joint is at rest, the labrum soaks up the synovial fluid in the hip. When you take a step, it squeezes the fluid out. When you lift your leg, the fluid rushes back into the hip. This movement of the synovial fluid is the reason why hip exercises help manage the pain from your torn hip labrum in some cases.

Where is the tear of your labrum located?

The severity of your hip pain depends on the location of the tear and the amount of your scar tissue from the injury. The hip pain that you are experiencing is from your hip joint rubbing against the scar tissue from the hip injury. In some cases, you might experience the hip pain only when you rotate your hip and rub against the scar tissue.

Managing your torn labrum pain

As you can see from the comments on my torn hip labrum post, a few people insist that surgery is the only option for getting rid of the pain.

However, I have been able to manage the pain from my torn hip labrum for a few years with a combination of foam rolling and hip exercises.  My orthopedic surgeon believed that I would not see much benefit from surgery due to the location of my tear.  If you draw a clock around where I stand, my tear is at the one o’ clock position in the front near my groin area on my left hip.

I have to admit that I avoid most high impact exercises because of the labral tear. But since I am not much a high impact exercise type of person to begin with, it does not impact my lifestyle. However, if my runner friend was to have a labral tear on his hip, it would mean the end of his running days. And being a runner for the last 20 years, a torn hip labrum would have a HUGE impact on his lifestyle.

Pregnancy changes everything in your body, especially your hip area.  I have plenty of friends complaining about wider hips after having babies. This confirms my orthopedic surgeon’s advice to at least wait until after a pregnancy before seeking surgery.

Pregnancy might “heal” your hip labrum (or make it worst)

Initially, my hip hurts a bit more during the first half of my pregnancy because of all the relaxin hormones flooding my body and loosen my joints.  But during the second half of my pregnancy, my hip stopped bothering me. Instead, I am now suffering from back pain (which is common for most pregnant women as they gain weight and change their posture).

According to the physical therapist I saw recently, the widening of my hip might cause the hip joint to not rub against the labral tear, hence the decrease in my hip pain. So depending on the location of your torn hip labrum, your hip pain might disappear after pregnancy when your hip widens with pregnancy. I have no idea if this is permanent or if it is just a temporary lull in my battle with managing my torn hip labrum. But I am hopeful.

Regardless, I did get a good recommendation from the physical therapist on an orthopedic surgeon in my area specializing in repairing labral tears. So if your doctor recommends you see a physical therapist first before sending you to a specialist, it might be a good idea to ask if they would recommend a good specialist for your condition (after all, the physical therapists have to help rehabilitate the patients after the surgeons operate on them).

Until next time and thanks for stopping by Small Steps to Health.

Interested in reading more about my hip pain saga?

My Hip Pain is from a Torn Labrum

Hip Exercises for a Hip Injury (Torn Labrum)

Deep Tissue Massage using Foam Roller Exercises for Hip Pain, Part 1

Deep Tissue Massage using Foam Roller Exercises for Hip Pain, Part 2

Torn Hip Labrum during Pregnancy

Can a Hip Labrum Heal Itself?

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Alex April 23, 2011 at 12:05 pm

I was involved in a car accident some years ago and believe I have this problem. I initially had pain and swelling in the groin area, pain in the side/hip, and additional pain that showed up in the periformis. Problem with all the dr’s I went to see is they kept diagnosing it as myo-facial syndrome, just simple muscular pain. I had an MRI done of the back, but for some reason no one ever did any of the hip. I didn’t know near as much as I do now about the symptoms or problems I was having.

Suffice to say a decade later I am having problems again. Most of the severe pain stayed around for the first 4 years. After that the problems seemed to become less but never went away. I went to PT for a knee problem and in the course of doing exercises for my hip (thought it might be connected to my knee condition-tight glutes, IT band, sitting on the job) the pain started up again. I can’t do any kind of stomach exercises that involve the hip flexors without major pain over several days.

The pain I experience keeps me up at night and interferes with my ability to sleep. For years now I’ve had to be prescribed a sleep aid. I’m going to go to my dr and see what can be done. Maybe now that we know what we’re looking for, they can treat this properly and get something healed. I’d die for a decent night’s sleep.

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asithi April 23, 2011 at 3:40 pm

A decade ago, a torn hip labrum were not even appear on the radar. Surgeries to repair to hip labrum is still a relatively new procedure so there are not as many orthopedic surgeons with experience.

I’m sorry to hear about your reoccurring hip pain. During the first year of my car accident I also have problems falling asleep due to the hip pain. Just like you, I had an MRI and x-rays done on my back but nothing for my hip. When I mentioned the pain on my hip, the doctors at the time dismissed, my concerns (this was over 4-5 years ago) that it might be related to the back pain. At one point, I even start to wonder whether the hip pain was just on my head since nothing is showing up.

Sometimes a torn hip labrum might not appear in a regular MRI, but when you inject a dye into your hip it will show up. But most orthopedic surgeons initially only request to a regular MRI without a dye injection. Good luck!

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Mizunogirl June 6, 2011 at 3:33 pm

I appreciated reading this. I hope my recently repaired labrum is indeed bathing in healing hip fluid as I write.

My torn labrum actually did not show up on the Injected MRI, but based on a malformation of my hip and my pain my surgeon, after another diagnostic hip injection (and 3 weeks of PT) went ahead and found it using arthroscopy. So even with the dye injection it does not always show. If you find a good surgeon who knows the Arthroscopic procedure they will be able to ferret it out.

I am a runner, so I’m really hoping to run again by November. Its a really really long recovery. I have to admit, if I was not a runner with a few more life running goals, I probably would not have had the surgery…since the recovery so far has been pretty life changing and not extremely pleasant…

Can I add that your spell check seems to have correct labral pain in most of your article to labial pain which refers to of course a whole different part of the body.

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asithi June 6, 2011 at 5:04 pm

Mizunogirl – Thanks for catching my typo. Spell check makes me lazy with checking my writing afterwards.

It is true that an arthroscopy is the only way to definitive see what is going on with a torn hip labrum. A lot of people on the running forums are surprised by the lengthy recovery even though doctors’ definition of recovery are a little different than what an active person considers recovery. This is the reason why I will hold out on surgery for as long as possible with an infant in the house. There is no way I can afford the downtime for recovery.

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