my aching hip

If you’ve been noticing pain and stiffness in one of your hips, a sensation of locking or clicking when you move, or reduced mobility that causes you to reconsider going for a walk, you might think it’s time for a new hip.

But your problem might not be with the hip joint itself. It might indicate a labral tear.

A labral tear occurs when the labrum, a rim of cartilage that encircles the hip socket and holds the hip joint in place, is weakened or strained by injury or repetitive use. Tears can be caused by sudden impact, such as a fall or your foot landing in a pothole while running. But a tear can just as easily develop through repetitive stress or a hereditary misalignment of the hip bones that wears out the labrum over time.

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If you’re experiencing persistent hip pain, consult with your doctor for an evaluation. Be prepared to describe your symptoms: where you feel pain (one or both hips, groin or buttocks); what makes the pain worse (exercise, long periods of standing, sitting, lying down or getting up); and other symptoms you’ve observed (stiffness, reduced mobility, or a locking sensation in the hip joint).

An X-ray or MRI of one or both hip joints should reveal any signs of a labral tear. Depending on the severity of the injury and the degree to which the pain is affecting your quality of life, your doctor may recommend you cease or modify certain activities. She may also recommend OTC pain relievers; steroid injections for longer-term relief where it hurts; or physical therapy to strengthen the supportive muscles around the injury. Short of a complete hip replacement, a labral tear might require arthroscopic surgery to resolve hip impingement.

That said, if you have osteoarthritis, which wears away cartilage and creates bone-on-bone pain, you may indeed need a hip replacement. If your hip pain is longstanding, severe (affecting mobility and sleep patterns), and impervious to other treatments, sit down with your doctor to discuss a total hip replacement. Just don’t assume it’s your only option if you have hip pain.

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