It’s the time of year when we are all making new year’s resolutions and trying to put in place plans and strategies to be healthier in the upcoming months. For some of us, this doesn’t just mean something like a gentle jog, it can mean something much more strenuous – marathon training. Most marathon training programmes last 16 weeks so this week sees runners competing in the London Marathon starting to ramp up their preparation.
Although competitive running has many health benefits, it puts a great deal of stress on your joints, which can lead to long-term problems if not managed correctly. One very common running-related problem is hip pain, which is often attributed to an inflamed labrum, or hip labral tear. The labrum is a fibrous rim on the socket of the joint, which is liable to damage in some situations. Runners suffering from a labral tear actually describe it as “a dull, burning sensation that wouldn’t go away”, rather than a more traditional ‘tear’ that is instantly obvious and causes a sharper, more immediate pain. Some people don’t even know that the tear has occurred when it first happens. The problem with this kind of pain is that, to a certain extent, people can get used to it and learn to push through the discomfort. This is the worst thing you can do for a labral tear as this will be making the problem worse and prolonging/exacerbating the pain in the longer term.
So, what exactly is a labral tear or inflamed labrum?
To begin to understand more about the problem, we need to start by understanding what the issue is and how it occurs. The labrum is a cartilage ring that stabilises the hip joint. It behaves as the hip’s natural shock absorber, so really gets put to the test with high impact sports such as long-distance running, HIIT training, basketball and so on.
The causes of these different conditions are also very similar, they tend to be caused by really pushing yourself when undertaking a sport such as running but while not ensuring that you are taking time to build up the muscles suitably at the same time. Strength training is very important for looking after the joints of athletes such as runners. If people take the time to build up the muscles around key joints then this will pay dividends in the long run as it will help them absorb as much ‘shock’ as possible.
Hard to pinpoint the problem
Diagnosis can be tricky, especially without consulting orthopaedic experts, as the symptoms of a labral tear van be very similar to a joint which is just struggling with early-onset osteoarthritis or inflammation of the joint.
Here at the Fortius Clinic, we see a lot of patients – particularly younger patients – who have been keen runners and who are now struggling with inflammation of the labrum or a labral tear. In some cases, patients can get better with appropriate physiotherapy and a tailored rehabilitation programme. It does not necessarily mean the end of their running ambitions, but it is time to take stock and make sure you’re looking after your joints appropriately. Physiotherapy can help build up the muscles around the joint and provide the dexterity and support that the joint needs. If this approach isn’t successful though then patients will need to consult a hip surgeon specialising in hip arthroscopy to discuss if they do need an operation.