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Natural Treatment For Hip Labral Tear

Between knees and hips, it's difficult to say which area is more prone to degenerative changes as we age, but in my experience, it's far easier to protect your hips than your knees.

Knees are relatively simple - they are hinge joints, meaning that they are designed to work in one major plane, and generally, they wear down in predictable fashion. The more you grind them through daily life, the weaker your cartilage and ligaments become. Your knees are not well vascularized compared to other major joints in your body, so there isn't a lot you can do by way of stretching and massage to significantly improve blood flow to the cartilage within and the ligaments that surround and stabilize your knee joints.

Hips are ball-in-socket joints, and are far more complex than knees. Your hips will also deteriorate according to how much weight-bearing activity you put them through over the years, but their rate of degeneration depends largely on how healthy surrounding muscles and ligaments are. When the dozens of muscles and ligaments that wrap around your hip joints are healthfully flexible and well perfused with blood, your hip joints are optimally protected against premature wear and tear. Conversely, if you have chronically tight hip flexors, adductors, and rotators, as well as poor blood flow to the ligaments that stabilize your hip joints, the surfaces that make up your hip joint articulations will experience more burden than they would with healthier surroundings.

So to preserve your hips as you get older, it's vital that you take care of surrounding muscles and ligaments through regular stretching and massage.

In a newsletter that I sent out last summer, I mentioned the case of a client who was able to avoid hip surgery for a torn hip labrum by stretching and foam rolling both of his hips for several months. To my surprise, I recently heard from a collegiate soccer player in southern California who told me that reading about that client inspired her to try what she could to get over debilitating hip pain that had derailed her soccer. After listening to her story, I asked her if she wouldn't mind writing about her journey and sharing it here, to which she graciously sent in the following:

Dear Dr. Kim,

I'm happy to share with your readers what I did to heal my hip without having surgery that our doctor advised last year.

After reading about your client who got over his torn hip labrum with stretching and a foam roller, it hit me right away that my hips were super tight even before I started having problems.

I never had that one crazy snap that some of the other girls have told me about with torn ACLs and other injuries. One morning, I woke up with this feeling that something was deep inside of my left hip, like I needed it to be popped or released. I went to my chiro and he tried a bunch of adjustments and stretching but that feeling deep inside of my hip wouldn't go away.

Over the next couple of weeks, that feeling grew more intense and I noticed that I couldn't sit crossed legged without pain. Then during a footwork drill in practice, I went to pivot on that side to cut the other way and it was like my left hip exploded with sharp pain. I didn't fall to the ground or anything like that but I knew that I couldn't repeat that motion without having terrible pain.

I continued to try to practice but I had explosive pain whenever I tried to pivot on my left hip.

I rested for about a month and it only got worse with regular activities (no soccer or fitness training at all), so I ended up getting an MRI with an injection so that they could see what was going on. The orthopedic surgeon thought that I had a torn labrum, and the report showed that he was right, it was a tear.

I didn't like the idea of being knocked out, having my hip separated by a tractioning device, and having part of my labrum snipped off and then having the rest of it screwed into my hip socket. Yes, I did my research and came to a good understanding of what the procedure involved. My parents and I were thinking that I was finished with soccer.

After reading about your client, I went crazy stretching and foam rolling. I think I did a few hours that first day! I still remember how tight I was, especially in my hip flexors, IT band, and groin.

I kept at it, a couple of hours spread out every day, and after about four weeks of this, I still remember it vividly, as I stretched out my left hamstring after a long foam rolling session, I felt and heard a huge crack from deep within my hip. It was pure ecstasy, just the release that I was trying to get when I went to the chiro. I was so encouraged and felt like the area was loosening up in a good way.

I tried doing some drills and still had sharp pain whenever I tried to pivot on my left leg, but there was definite improvement.

Long story short, I stuck with the stretching and foam rolling and today, I'm feeling as quick and strong as I did before I got injured. I can pivot pain-free, and can hold the lotus position in yoga. I think it took me about 9 months of stretching and foam rolling to get to this point, and I'm so happy that I'm playing soccer again and that I didn't have to go under the knife.

I show my friends how to foam roll all the time. I have to admit that it's really satisfying whenever I see how tight they are when they first try to roll because I remember exactly how that felt, how tight I was the first time, and now I roll all these areas out without thinking twice. I feel like a foam rolling expert! (:

I hope my story inspires others to try rolling and just stretching. You honestly feel so much better when you are flexible and you don't have aches and pains from tight muscles.

Thanks for all that you do,

Laura K.
Santa Clara, CA

Many thanks to Laura for taking the time to share her experiences with us. I have had the pleasure of observing many people experience similar recoveries from chronic injuries throughout the body through regular stretching and rolling.

I've said it countless times but it's worth saying again: You can do so much more for your health through regular stretching and foam rolling than you can going to receive a 5 to 30 minute treatment once a week. Massage, assisted stretching, chiropractic adjustments, acupuncture, physiotherapy treatments - all of these therapies can be helpful to your health. But in my experience, their effects don't come close to matching the benefits of taking a half hour every evening taking care of yourself with simple stretches and self massage with a roller or similar device.

If you aren't yet stretching and rolling the muscles and ligaments that surround your hips and the rest of your major joints to preserve your physical health as you age, I encourage you to begin now, as it's a lot easier to stay limber than it is to get limber after your tissues have built up adhesions. Though most adhesions can be resolved with regular stretching and rolling, so it's always a good idea to start, regardless of how tight you are.

Two specific rolling exercises to begin with in your hip area can be found at the following pages:

You can review similar posts in our stretching and foam rolling archive here:

Stretching and Foam Rolling


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Hi Dr. Kim, I get your newsletter but must have missed the one on the frozen hip. I am 66 years old and have hips that freeze up. I have been trying to get relief from various modalities but, as the woman said, just can't get the relief (or pop) that will give me some relief. I watched the video on using the large tennis ball and will try that. Thank you so much--I've had the pain for a long time. Kathy


i just wanted to thank you so much for posting laura's experience. i have alot of hip problems which i have made worse with stretching and not foam rolling. to ease my left hip pain, i'd do split stretches every day and spend hours stretching without a foam rolling for many, many, many months - maybe 7 months in total. i have fibromyalgia and am 44 so the stretching was very painful for me.

i saw a surgeon and i have several labral tears and i think he missed that my ligamentum teres is probably torn or ruptured. the hip pain is excruciating. but i don't want surgery and have stopped stretching (i only read afterwards when i downloaded a tonne of journal papers that extremer stretching, ballet and gymnastics can cause labral and ligamentum teres tears). i had no idea.

anyway, after reading laura's experience, i have embarked on foam rolling myself - since there's not much more i can do now. i actually found that even the hardest foam roller i could find was not enough for me, so now i'm using UPVC drainage pipe of various diameters. i'm also using various sized kong and tennis balls to also aid in easing the tissue and hip pain.

i am dedicated to doing this foam rolling and massage for as long as it takes and don't want to believe that having fibromyaliga limits my ability to change the tissue in my body. i can keep you posted with my experience if you like. i know i also have loose ligaments in my sacroiliac joints which is what also caused me to develop this chronic left hip pain (and now right hip pain because i'm sure i damaged the labrum in the right hip from over stretching - it clicks and has pain also now but not like the left side). anyway, i can realign my pelvis and it misaligns very quickly again - even when i realign my pubic symphysis as well. this pelvic ligament instability is a result of a snowboarding accident i had nearly 11 years ago now.

anywaysm bye for now and thanks again to laura and to you for sharing her experience with us.

Hi Leesa. I was wondering about your progress?