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Hip Osteoarthritis and Labral Tears — A Potential Two-way Street

Hip Osteoarthritis and Labral Tears — A Potential Two-way Street

Your hip is giving you problems — maybe it hurts after a long walk or you’re dealing with stiffness in the morning. Either way, you’re struggling to move around freely, and it feels like the problem is only getting worse with more symptoms showing up as time goes on.

That feeling may be based on an unfortunate reality — your hip problems are piling up as osteoarthritis (OA) and a labral tear co-occur. And this is likely no coincidence.

To explain the connection between hip labral tears and hip OA, we turn to the resident hip specialist on the team here at Western OrthopaedicsDr. Brian White. Dr. White is a leading expert in hip preservation and labral reconstruction, which makes him uniquely qualified to explain the bidirectional link between hip OA and labral tears.

A separate look at hip OA and labral tears

To better understand the connection between hip OA and labral tears, we should first understand each condition separately.

Hip OA

First, OA is the most common form of arthritis and affects more than 32.5 million American adults

OA is a degenerative form of arthritis and occurs when cartilage inside the joint breaks down. Cartilage is important when it comes to joint function because this slippery substance covers the ends of your bones, allowing them to glide together smoothly. When the tissue breaks down, the bones rub together, creating friction that leads to bone damage, joint pain, and inflammation.

Labral tears

Your hips are ball-and-socket joints where the top of your thigh bone (femur) connects with a socket in your pelvis. To keep this connection secure, your socket features a labrum, which is a ring of cartilage that forms a seal around the ball and socket. This seal performs three main functions:

  1. Stabilizing the joint
  2. Keeping fluids inside
  3. Providing shock absorption in your hip

With a labral tear, there’s damage in the cartilage and the seal is compromised, which affects each of the areas above.

The connection between hip issues

Now, let’s get to the heart of the discussion: The connection between labral tears and hip OA. This connection goes both ways, which means one can lead to the other.

For example, if you have a labral tear in your hip, this can affect the stability and shock absorption capabilities of the joint, which can lead to more wear on the cartilage that covers your femur. Not to mention, a break in the seal can prevent your socket from holding onto synovial fluids that lubricate the joint. As a result, OA can take hold more easily as cartilage breaks down in the absence of the fluid.

Now, let’s go in the other direction. If you have hip OA, the erosion of cartilage can compromise your joint function and make you more vulnerable to tearing your labrum.

Whichever way the connection runs, it’s important to treat both problems for your best chance of regaining pain-free movement in your hip. Dr. White is an expert in repairing and reconstructing the labrum, which is a great way to break the cycle. In severe cases, he can perform hip replacement surgery, but he prefers to focus on hip preservation techniques first.

Of course, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Your first order of business is to schedule an appointment with Dr. White so he can properly evaluate your hip health. To get started, simply contact one of our offices in Arvada or Denver, Colorado.

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