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Running with a hip labral tear

Updated on January 24, 2012

Hip labral tear

What is a hip labral tear? A hip labral tear or torn hip labrum, according to the Mayo clinic, "involves the ring of soft elastic tissue, called the labrum, that follows the outside rim of the socket of your hip joint." The labrum acts like a socket to hold the ball at the top of your thighbone (femur) in place.[Mayo Clinic;mayoclinic.com]. When this tissue becomes torn it can be extremely painful, causing running to be almost unbearable and sometimes even walking is excruciating, depending on the severity of the tear.

Symptoms range from groin, hip and thigh pain to a catching sensation during movement of the hip. Sitting, squatting, stretching or standing for long periods of time can also be painful. This can start out feeling like just another running injury, but never improves despite icing, rest, and all the other measures that normally get you back on your feet in a day or two at most. This is unlike any other injury though, and if it is not corrected with surgery or extensive physical therapy it normally won't go away by itself.

You may be wondering what could cause this a hip labral tear. This is going to sound strange because although athletes such as runners can suffer from these, a torn hip labrum can also be something you are born with. Based I my limited research (and keep in mind I am not a doctor and have no medical background), I speculate that even if a person is born with the tear, a runner or other athlete is going to be the first to notice symptoms over an inactive or less active person. Does running or other sports make the tear worse? I have not been able to find a concrete answer to that, even from my doctor. A hip labral tear can also be caused by acute trauma to the hip through a fall or blow to the hip, car accident, or something of a similar nature. In my case I think I was probably born with it but it became more pronounced due to the wear and tear from running.

How is a tear to the hip labrum diagnosed? This type of injury will not show up on normal x-rays. This is why before the use of MRIs the labral tears were either undiagnosed or misdiagnosed as arthritis or something else. Treatment ranged from doing nothing to a complete hip replacement, which may become necessary later in life if a tear is not repaired. If your doctor suspects a hip labral tear he will send you for a special type of MRI that involves injecting a dye into your hip guided by ultrasound so as not to accidentally hit the artery. Results can take several days to get back to your doctor and if they come back showing positive for a tear you may be referred to a specialist. There are currently only a handful of doctors in the country that actually perform the arthroscopic surgery to correct the labral tear. I had to travel to another city about 2 and a half hours away to see such a specialist and I am still waiting to be scheduled for surgery.

Can or should you be running when you have been diagnosed with a hip labral tear? Once again, I am not a doctor so I cannot tell you yes or no, only that for me I have chosen to keep running (or I should say slogging) through the pain for now as the waiting process first to be diagnosed and now to be scheduled for hip arthroscopic surgery has been too long and arduous to not run. Granted some days are so painful that I can scarcely get a mile or two in, but I choose to suck it up and get even a few miles in rather than sit and mope about it. Am I making the tear worse by running on it? I can only hope not, but I can't say for sure. I just live for the day I will be able to run pain free once again, gliding along as though my feet barely touch the ground, with the wind on my face and joy in my heart that only a runner can identify with.

 A complex labral tear
A complex labral tear

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