I surmise that up until recently you never even knew that your body had something called a labrum, let alone a tear in the labral socket.
That annoying hip or shoulder pain, however, made you head off to the doctor. Or perhaps you haven’t yet gone and you aren’t even sure if you have a damage in the labral of the shoulder, or a labrum tear in the hip, or just a rotator cuff injury.
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How about rowing with a labral tear in the shoulder? Should you stop all forms of exercises until you’ve consulted your doctor? How about labral injuries in the hip joint? Will you need surgery? Should you see a regular doctor or an SM specialist?
In today’s article, I want to discuss hip and shoulder labrum tears and what these injuries mean. You’ve probably already done a search for this and found the information lacking or confusing.
Please remember that I am not a doctor, and this should not be considered medical advice, only general advice among friends with similar experiences. Always consult with your physician, chiropractor, physical therapist, or sports medicine (SM) professional.
What Is a Labrum Tear?
Without getting into too much technical medical jargon, let’s have a common understanding about labrums and labral tears. You have labrums in both your shoulders and hips. Shoulder labrum tears are much more common than those occurring in the hip, while rotator cuff injuries are even more common than labral tears. To learn more about rotator cuff injury, you may refer to our article here.
Labrums are rings of cartilage that hold a bone in the socket. Think of it as a rubber band around the top of a jar. In the case of the shoulder labrum, its job is to keep the entire arm and shoulder socket stable. Unfortunately, a labral tear can challenge the stability of this ball-and-socket joint mechanism and, worse, cause pain.
What Causes Labrum Tear?
There are several causes, including:
- Overuse, most often due to repetitive motion from work or sports, such as playing baseball
- Impact from a slip or fall
- A direct hit to the joint, such as a car accident
- A sudden, violent tug or pulling of the arm
The labrums of the hip joint work in the same manner and are often damaged in similar ways, including:
- Trauma from contact sports, such as football
- Accidents, including car accidents and falls
- Repetitive motion from work-related movements or sports, such as the twisting motion involved when playing golf or the excessive wear and pounding from long distance running
What’s the Pain Like with a Torn Shoulder Labrum?
The pain typically associated with a labral tear in the shoulder is described as a grinding sensation felt when you try to reach your arms overhead. In some instances, the shoulder may also lock up on its own.
Some people experience symptoms on one side, or it can be both sides.
Will I Need Surgery for a Torn Shoulder Labrum?
In some cases, yes, you may need surgery. This will depend on many factors, and only your doctor or other qualified health practitioners can tell you if you require surgery.
Some people, including rowing professionals, believe that you can perform exercises that will strengthen the general shoulder area, which will allow the labrum to heal itself. You can read more about these exercises here.
As always, you should consult with your doctor if you suffer from these types of injuries to ensure that you will heal properly and get the best results.
If the shoulder labral has completely become detached, an outpatient procedure is usually done to reattach it to the joint, which will put you out of any rowing activity or other exercises involving the shoulder for 6-12 weeks.
What About a Hip Labrum Tear? Will It Require Surgery?
This will depend on the extent of the damage. Unlike the shoulder, most labral tears in the hip can be repaired by resting and ceasing any movement or exercises that may have caused the injury, and that includes rowing.
Should I see a GP or Sports Medicine Doctor?
I’m betting that a GP will recommend you to a doctor who specializes in these types of injuries. It is my understanding that an SM doctor will do the diagnosing and can do the surgery to repair the labral tear right in their office.
Can I Row with a Labral Tear in the Shoulder or the Hip?
While you should get advice directly from your doctor, in most cases, the answer is not for a while. If you are not experiencing pain when you row, then you probably can, but most rowers will tell you that they feel at least some level of pain while doing rowing activities.
Generally speaking, most rowers should rest the shoulders and hips for at least 6 weeks. There are exercises you can do to help strengthen the muscles that support the shoulder and hip joints.
After this period of rest, it is hoped that these injuries will have healed enough that you can slowly return to rowing and other physical activities. The majority of rowers find that after a few weeks of rest and some physical therapy, they can return to rowing and gradually build up to their previous rowing workouts.
At the End of the Day
Labral injuries in the shoulder joint or hip can be painful and debilitating. Rowers don’t like to take time off from their favorite activity (rowing), but in some instances, it must be done.
Let’s learn to appreciate that our body can heal itself, for the most part anyway, and that we will have the strength to return to rowing within a few short weeks.
A labral tear is not the end of the world, and you will be back to rowing and other exercises in no time at all.
I hope that this article has answered some of your questions. Bear in mind, however, that it is not meant to replace a doctor’s advice. Please see your physician and/or other medical professionals before you start any type of exercise program, or maybe even stop your exercise program for a full and proper evaluation.