The labrum is a ring of cartilage found within the hip socket. Its main purpose is to absorb shock, as well as to help make sure your leg bone fits snugly inside the hip socket.
Cartilage is generally pretty tough, but sometimes it can become injured.
There are many different potential causes, according to the American Physical Therapy Association:
Labral injuries can be the result of trauma, such as a fall or a car accident, but are most commonly caused by repetitive trauma to the hip joint. Individuals who participate in sports that require extremes of motion, such as figure skating, repetitive twisting and ‘cutting,’ like hockey or soccer, or long-distance running are most often diagnosed with labral tears.
Basically, if you subject the labrum to forces it wasn’t intended to bear, for long enough, you can create a tear.
Sometimes, labral tears can be a result of SI joint dysfunction. When the ilium (hip bone) is rotated out of position, this means the hip socket is not where it is supposed to be. As a result, the thigh bone (femur) sits abnormally in the hip socket. Like anything in the body, when things are not lined up the way they are intended to be, this is when you run into problems. Having the femur in an abnormal position can put stress on the labrum in a way it was not intended to bear.
According to the Mayo Clinic, it is possible for labral tears not to cause any symptoms. However, possible symptoms include:
- A locking, clicking or catching sensation in your hip joint
- Pain in your hip or groin
- Stiffness or limited range of motion in your hip joint.
The difference for you to be aware of, as a patient, is that the SI joint and the hip socket are located in two very different places. It can definitely be confusing, since we often use the word “hip” to refer to the pelvis in general, or to the SI joints.
However, the actual hip socket is located in the front of your pelvis. It is where your legs attack to your body. (The official name for the hip socket is the acetabulum):
Meanwhile, the SI joint is towards the back. It is where the pelvis and spine connect.
Since some of the symptoms of a labral tear and SI joint dysfjunction can sound the same, it is very important for a physician or PT figure out where your pain is coming from.
In my personal experience, the question of a labral tear ended up taking up quite a lot of time while I was trying to find a physical therapist to help me with my SI joints. (Luckily I didn’t end up having one).
After the exercises my first PT gave me made me consistently worse, I went elsewhere for a second opinion. However, I was limping so much during my appointment, and found it too painful to stand on one leg at a time, that she ended up saying she wasn’t comfortable treating my SI joints until I saw a physician to rule out a labral tear.
I was really frustrated and annoyed by this at the time. I had to wait 3 weeks to get an appointment with a doctor, who ended up telling me I didn’t have one.
However, knowing what I know now, and after speaking with hundreds of coaching clients, I’ve actually come to believe this PT was completely right.
Sometimes, a labral tear really can cause identical symptoms to SI joint dysfunction, because of how it can refer pain — so it is absolutely something to get checked out!