The hallmark symptom of hip labral tears is pain in the front of the hip and/or the inner thigh (groin), seen in over 90% of individuals with this condition.1Groh MM, Herrera J. A comprehensive review of hip labral tears. Curr Rev Musculoskelet Med. 2009;2(2):105-117. doi:10.1007/s12178-009-9052-9

Labral pain worsens while lying down, sitting in a chair for long periods, or doing physical activities.

People with hip labral tears often grip or cup their hand around the side of the hip with the thumb and index finger (like a C-shaped sign), which is where the pain is felt the most.

Hip Labral Tear Signs and Symptoms

Labral tear symptoms vary based on the location of the tear. For example, tears in the front part of the labrum cause pain in the front of the hip and the inner thigh, while tears at the back of the labrum cause buttock pain.

A hip labral tear usually affects one hip, and the symptoms appear on one side of the body.

The most common symptoms and signs include some combination of:

  • Hip pain in the front: A constant, deep, dull ache in the front of the hip commonly felt while lying down and occasional, sharp, stinging pain that gets worse with physical activities, such as turning, walking, and running
  • Hip pain on the side: A constant ache or sharp stabbing pain along the outer side of the hip
  • Inner thigh (groin) pain: Sharp pain in the groin accompanied by a deep pull or tight feeling in the inner thigh
  • Thigh pain in the front: Pain in the front of the thigh along with a feeling of tightness in the thigh
  • Knee pain: Pain from the hip and/or groin that travels down the thigh towards the knee
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  • Buttock pain: Pain deep inside the buttock or along the outer side of the buttock
  • Pain while rising from a seated position: A sudden pain deep in the hip joint when rising from a chair or getting in or out of a car
  • Pain with change of direction: Hip pain while pivoting, turning, and/or during sexual activity
  • Pelvic floor pain (in women): Pain in the area below the bellybutton
  • Hip clicking, locking, or catching: A grinding or coarse sensation in the hip joint during movement, similar to snapping hip syndrome. The feeling is described as a clicking, locking, or catching sensation, of which clicking is the most common
  • Hip stiffness and reduced range of motion: The hip joint’s range of motion decreases, especially as the condition progresses and becomes chronic
  • Hip instability: The hip and leg feel like they are about to give way, especially when walking, running, or standing for long periods of time.
  • Limping: Severe hip pain that results in a limp while walking

It is also possible for the symptoms to affect both the hip joints. A longer duration of symptoms indicates a more severe labral injury.2Cho YJ, Rhyu KH, Chun YS, Kim MS. Patterns of labral tears and cartilage injury are different in femoroacetabular impingement and dysplasia. J Hip Preserv Surg. 2022;9(3):151-157. Published 2022 Jun 30. doi:10.1093/jhps/hnac026

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Day-to-Day Limitations Due to Hip Labral Tears

Labral discomforts that interfere with everyday activities include:

  • Difficulty sleeping. Disturbed sleep due to nighttime hip pain is common, as the pain tends to get worse while lying down.
  • Difficulty walking for long periods of time. Hip instability and pain make walking long distances difficult.
  • Pain after sitting for 30 minutes or more. Sitting for an extended period causes hip labral pain to start or makes the existing pain worse.
  • Discomfort while standing. Standing for long periods is generally difficult and uncomfortable. People describe feeling as if the hip might give out, although falling is unlikely.
  • Needing a railing to climb stairs. Weakness and instability in the hip joint make it difficult to climb stairs without support.
  • Trouble participating in sports and physical activities. Labral tear pain intensifies while participating in sports and activities that stress the labrum, such as golf, ballet, soccer, and running.

If left untreated, hip labral tear symptoms may worsen over time.

  • 1 Groh MM, Herrera J. A comprehensive review of hip labral tears. Curr Rev Musculoskelet Med. 2009;2(2):105-117. doi:10.1007/s12178-009-9052-9
  • 2 Cho YJ, Rhyu KH, Chun YS, Kim MS. Patterns of labral tears and cartilage injury are different in femoroacetabular impingement and dysplasia. J Hip Preserv Surg. 2022;9(3):151-157. Published 2022 Jun 30. doi:10.1093/jhps/hnac026

Dr. Yash Mehta is a board-certified, fellowship-trained physiatrist at VSI, VA.

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