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Physical Therapy for Hip Labral Tear – Information, Exercises, and More

If you’ve been suffering from the pain of a hip labral tear, you know how uncomfortable it can be.

You may be wondering if physical therapy for hip labral tears is an option and how it might help.

In this quick guide, we share the causes, symptoms, and diagnosis, of hip labral tear and how physical therapy may be able to help you find relief.


What Is a Hip Labral Tear?

When looking at the hip, it appears to be shaped like a ball and socket, the socket being the acetabulum and the ball being the femoral head (at the top of the leg). The labrum is the soft tissue that covers the acetabulum.

The labrum:

  • Is responsible for the smooth movement of the femoral head 
  • Allows your hip to move freely and without pain; and 
  • Serves as a seal between the ball and socket so they cannot rub

A hip labral tear occurs when the hip labrum is injured, torn, or detached from the acetabular socket.

What Causes a Hip Labral Tear?

Several factors may be responsible for your hip labral tear. Here are some of the most common.


Hip labral tears are most common in athletes who suffer the trauma of a sudden impact on the hips, such as:

  • Hockey players
  • Football players
  • Soccer players
  • Basketball players
  • Runners
  • Etc. 

Dislocation or injury of the hip joint can also happen to people who work in jobs where repeated hip flexion is necessary and accidents are possible (such as construction work or hard labor), during a car accident, or from a fall.

Repetitive Motion

In many cases, repetitive motion from daily activities causes wear and tear on the labrum. 

Long-distance runners or hiking enthusiasts, for example, may start to experience pain in their hips. A hip labral tear could be the culprit.

The sudden pivoting or twisting that is common among baseball players or golfers can also cause joint wear and tear, leading to a torn hip labrum.

Structural Ailments

In some cases, a person may be born with structural impairments that can speed up the wear and tear of the hip joint and ultimately cause a tear in the labrum.

Femoroacetabular impingement (FAI), for example, is one of the leading causes of hip labral tears. In FAI, the femoral head does not align with the socket, causing an imperfect fit. This can result in movement limitations as well as groin pain.

FAI can lead to osteoarthritis in some patients if not treated properly.

Hip Labral Tear Symptoms

Symptoms of a hip labral tear may include:

  • Pain in the groin or buttocks
  • Stiffness or pain in the hip
  • Unsteadiness when on your feet
  • Clicking sound or the feeling of “locking” in the hip when moving

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, you should see a doctor as soon as possible. 

Pain and discomfort will only worsen over time, especially when:

  • Bending
  • Moving
  • Rotating; or 
  • Exercising

However, it is possible to have a tear in your hip labrum and experience no symptoms. A diagnosis is necessary to determine your next steps.

Hip Labral Tear Diagnosis

A hip labral tear is a condition where the labrum, a ring of cartilage that lines the hip joint, becomes damaged or torn. Diagnosing a hip labral tear typically involves a combination of clinical evaluation, medical history assessment, and imaging studies.

Here’s an overview of the diagnostic process:

  • Medical history and physical examination:
    • Your healthcare provider will begin by asking about your symptoms, any traumatic incidents, and your medical history. They will perform a physical examination of your hip joint, assessing for pain, tenderness, range of motion limitations, and any signs of instability.
  • Special tests:
    • Specific clinical tests may be performed to provoke pain or reproduce the symptoms associated with a hip labral tear. These tests might involve rotating and flexing the hip joint in various ways while observing your response.
  • Imaging studies:
    • X-rays: X-rays are often the initial imaging study to rule out other conditions and to assess the bony structures of the hip joint. X-rays can help identify any bone abnormalities or signs of osteoarthritis.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): MRI is a commonly used imaging technique for diagnosing hip labral tears. It provides detailed images of soft tissues, including the labrum, cartilage, and surrounding structures. An MRI can help visualize the tear and determine its location and extent.
  • Magnetic resonance arthrography (MRA): MRA is a specialized MRI technique where a contrast dye is injected into the hip joint before the MRI scan. This helps provide a clearer view of the labrum and can enhance the visualization of tears.
  • Ultrasound: Ultrasound imaging might be used to assess the hip joint, especially if there are limitations in obtaining an MRI. It can provide real-time images of the hip structures, including the labrum.
  • Diagnostic injections:
    • In some cases, a diagnostic injection of a local anesthetic (numbing medication) combined with a corticosteroid might be performed. If the injection significantly reduces or eliminates pain, it can help confirm that the pain is originating from the hip joint and suggest the presence of a labral tear.
  • Arthroscopy (if necessary):
    • Arthroscopy is a minimally invasive surgical procedure where a small camera (arthroscope) is inserted into the hip joint through tiny incisions. This allows for direct visualization of the joint and any tears. If a labral tear is confirmed during arthroscopy, the surgeon may also address the tear through surgical repair or trimming.

The diagnosis of a hip labral tear can sometimes be challenging, as the symptoms can overlap with other hip conditions. A comprehensive assessment that includes both clinical evaluation and appropriate imaging studies is crucial for an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment plan. 

If you suspect you have a hip labral tear or are experiencing hip pain, it’s recommended to consult a healthcare professional, like the Doctors of Physical Therapy at In Motion O.C.

How Do You Rehab a Hip Labral Tear?

You’ll have four main options for hip labrum tear rehab, including:

  1. Over-the-counter medications: NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen or naproxen, can be used to relieve pain and decrease inflammation.
  2. Medical injections: Medications, such as steroids, can be injected to decrease pain and ease symptoms.
  3. Physical therapy: A physical therapist can design a program to include specific exercises that can get you back on your feet and pain-free.
  4. Surgery: A severe tear may require a hip arthroscopy, an outpatient procedure to reattach or debride (clean) the labrum and reattach it to the socket.

Your physical therapist may also require you to rest and modify your daily activities. If surgery is required, physical therapy for hip labral tears will be an essential part of your rehabilitation plan.

Is Physical Therapy Beneficial for Hip Labral Tears?

Studies have shown that physical therapy treatment for hip labral tears is an effective method to reduce symptoms and show meaningful improvement.

A physical therapist will design a customized treatment plan based on: 

  • The cause of the tear
  • The extent of the tear; and 
  • Your symptoms

Depending on your specific case and your level of dedication to your care, physical therapy for hip labral tears may provide significant improvement in 6–8 weeks.

Physical Therapy Exercises for Hip Labral Tear

Physical therapy treatment for hip labral tear aims to: 

  • Reduce pain 
  • Improve hip joint function; and 
  • Strengthen the surrounding muscles 

The specific approach to rehabilitation will depend on factors such as the severity of the tear, the presence of any other hip conditions, and individual patient needs. 

Here are some general steps and principles that might be involved in the rehabilitation process for a hip labral tear.

Initial Rest and Pain Management

Depending on the severity of the tear, you may be advised to avoid activities that aggravate your symptoms and to rest the hip joint. 

Pain management strategies may be recommended, such as:

  • Ice therapy
  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Temporary use of assistive devices like crutches

Physical Therapy Evaluation

A physical therapist will assess your hip joint’s: 

  • Range of motion
  • Strength
  • Stability: and 
  • Movement patterns that may be contributing to the tear 

They will consider your overall movement mechanics, muscle imbalances, and any compensatory movements that might be affecting the hip joint.

Range of Motion Exercises

Gentle, controlled exercises may be prescribed to help restore normal hip joint range of motion. These exercises can prevent joint stiffness and improve flexibility.

Strengthening Exercises

Strengthening the muscles around the hip joint is crucial for stabilizing the joint and supporting proper movement. 

Exercises might focus on your: 

  • Hip abductors
  • Adductors
  • Quadriceps
  • Hamstrings
  • Gluteal muscles

Your physical therapist will guide you through exercises that gradually increase in intensity as your hip’s strength improves.

Core and Pelvic Stability Training

A strong core and stable pelvis are essential for proper hip mechanics. Your physical therapist may include exercises that target core muscles, as well as muscles that help stabilize the pelvis during movement.

Hip Joint Stabilization Exercises

Proprioceptive and neuromuscular training exercises can enhance the hip joint’s stability and improve its ability to respond to different movements and stresses.

Functional and Sport-Specific Training

As you progress, your rehabilitation plan may include exercises that mimic your daily activities and any sports or physical activities you engage in. This helps ensure a smooth return to your regular activities.

Pain-Relieving Techniques

Modalities to manage pain and inflammation may be used, including: 

  • Heat
  • Cold therapy
  • Ultrasound
  • Electrical stimulation 

Education and Activity Modification

Your physical therapist will educate you about proper movement mechanics, body mechanics, and techniques to avoid putting unnecessary stress on the hip joint. They might suggest modifications to activities that could exacerbate the hip labral tear.

Gradual Return to Activities

Depending on your progress, you will work with your healthcare team to gradually reintroduce more strenuous activities while closely monitoring your hip’s response.

How Long Is Physical Therapy for Hip Labral Tear?

Physical therapy for hip labral tears can take several weeks to months, depending on the severity of the tear and individual factors. 

Patience, consistency, and following your healthcare professional’s guidance are key to achieving a successful recovery and minimizing the risk of future injuries. ‘

Always consult your healthcare provider before starting any rehabilitation program or making significant changes to your exercise routine.

How In Motion O.C. Can Help With a Hip Labral Tear

In Motion O.C. has helped hundreds of patients with hip labral tears — and we can help you too. 

Check out our patient testimonials and reviews and see for yourself why we’ve been voted the #1 physical therapy clinic in the entire country on Yelp and Google.

All of our physical therapy treatments are conducted by our highly-trained physical therapists in state-of-the-art facilities.

We’re committed to bringing relief and comfort to every patient we treat. If you need physical therapy for a hip labral tear, request a free screening today. 

In Motion O.C.