Labral Tear

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What Is a Labral Tear?

Both our shoulders and hips are ball-and-socket joints. This means that the top of the bone fits into a socket, allowing for range of motion.

A labral tear involves damage to the ring of cartilage — called the labrum — that follows the outside rim of your shoulder or hip socket.

In essence, the labrum is a “gasket” that keeps the ball of the bone in the socket, and provides for smooth and painless motion.

Labral tear causes and risk factors

Shoulder labral tear

Labral tears to the shoulder are injuries to the ring of cartilage surrounding the shoulder socket. They occur either above or below the socket.

Risk factors that may cause shoulder labral tears include:

Hip labral tear

The hip joint includes the head of the femur (known as the ball) and the acetabulum (the socket) of the pelvis.

While a number of health problems can cause hip pain, many people confuse hip issues with any type of pain in the pelvic area. In reality, pain in the groin area is more indicative of a hip problem because the joint is close to the groin.

Most hip labral tears occur from an injury of force to a hyperextended hip.

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Labral Tear Symptoms and Diagnosis

Shoulder labral tear symptoms

The symptoms of a labral tear in the shoulder socket can include:

  • Pain involving overhead activities.
  • Feeling of grinding, popping, or the joint “sticking.”
  • Night pain.
  • Decreased range of motion.
  • Loss of strength.

Hip labral tear symptoms

Common symptoms of a labral tear to your hip area include:

  • A sensation in the hip of locking, clicking, or “catching.”
  • Pain in the hip or groin area.
  • Stiffness or limited range of motion in your hip joint.

Diagnosing labral tears

To help diagnose a labral tear in your shoulder or hip, your doctor will:

  • Discuss your medical history, including if you've had shoulder or hip injuries in the past.
  • Ask about your symptoms and pain level.
  • Perform an exam, moving your arm or leg to test the affected joint's strength and range of motion.

Your doctor may also order imaging tests, such as:

  • X-rays, for images of the bones in your shoulder or hip.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), to see the soft tissues that surround the shoulder or hip joints.

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Labral Tear Treatment and Surgical Repair

Doctors at UPMC Orthopaedic Care may try some conservative treatments for a labral tear, before recommending surgery.

Nonsurgical treatment for labral tears

Conservative treatments for shoulder and hip labral tears often include:

  • Anti-inflammatory medicines
  • Rest
  • Rehabilitation exercises to strengthen the joint and surrounding areas

Labral tear surgery

If nonsurgical methods don't help your shoulder or hip labral tear, your doctor may suggest arthroscopic surgery.

During shoulder labral tear arthroscopy, your surgeon will examine the shoulder socket and the biceps tendon.

  • A labral tear confined to the socket means the shoulder is stable. Your doctor will remove the torn flap and correct any other abnormalities.
  • A tear that extends into the biceps tendon, or becomes detached in any way, means your shoulder is unstable. Your surgeon will then need to repair and reattach the tendon using absorbable tacks, wires, or sutures.

If you have a hip labral tear that hasn't improved after six weeks, your surgeon might suggest hip arthroscopy. The procedure is minimally invasive, and suited to people of any age.

During hip labral tear arthroscopy, your surgeon will insert a small camera through an incision and make all necessary repairs to your hip.

Labral tear surgery recovery

After shoulder labral tear arthroscopic surgery, expect to use a sling for three or four weeks during recovery.

Your doctor will also ask you to do light, painless exercises to build strength and range of motion in your shoulder. Athletes can expect to be doing sport-specific exercises about six weeks after surgery.

The full healing process after shoulder labral tear surgery can take up to four months.

Recovery time from hip labral tear arthroscopic surgery is much shorter than the open-hip method. Post-surgery rehab will increase your rate of a successful recovery.

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