Easy Exercises for Hip Labral Tears Pain Relief


A hip labral tear affects the labrum (a structure made of thick cartilage) of a hip joint. It can lead to varying levels of pain.

Treating a hip labral tear often incorporates physical therapy exercises that work the cardiovascular system or the muscles around your buttocks called the glutes. Cardio exercises include: swimming, walking, rowing, and cycling on a stationary bike. Exercises focused on the glutes include the bridge, the single-leg bridge, the clamshell, and the side leg lift. 

The Science of Hip Labral Tear Exercises

If you are worried about the science behind using physical therapy exercises to treat a hip labral tear, don’t. The idea is to strengthen the muscles around the hip so that the hip moves more easily and with less stress. This lets the injury heal better.

A study listed in the National Library of Medicine developed a three-phase protocol to treat an acetabular labral tear (a type of hip labral tear). (1) The protocol began with developing the weight-bearing strength of the patient and progressing from there to develop the supporting muscles around the hip. Treatment included such exercises as the bridge, stationary cycling, as well as a series of aquatic exercises.

Additionally, a study by Science Direct found that In situations where a hip arthroscopy (a minimally invasive type of surgical intervention) is used to repair a labral tear, when physical therapy and the exercises it incorporates are used in recovery, the patient is “4.1 times less likely to develop adhesions.” (2) This leads to a quicker more complete recovery.

As you can see, PT exercises for a hip labral tear can be instrumental in proper care and recovery. Like PT, chiropractic care is another avenue that can be used when dealing with a hip injury. It is becoming more and more common to seek out a chiropractor for athletes when looking for effective conservative treatments.

Cardio Exercises for a Hip Labral Tear

There are a number of cardio exercises you can do that will actually help relieve the hip pain caused by a labral tear or another hip injury. Some of these exercises include swimming, walking (outside or on a treadmill), rowing, and cycling on a stationary bike.

  • Swimming is a great exercise option when you are dealing with a hip injury. Swimming laps in a pool will let you work the muscles in your body without the impact and stress on your hips and other joints which usually comes from many non-aquatic exercises. You also have a lot of options to vary your routine by selecting different strokes from breaststroke to backstroke and more, so you don’t get bored.
  • Walking is another excellent cardio exercise choice for someone dealing with hip pain like that caused by a labral tear. It allows you to work a fair number of muscles throughout the body while producing fairly low levels of impact on the joints. And, of course, it will get your heart rate up. When walking with an injured hip, though, it is best to make sure you walk on a level surface. Plan your walk for an area you are familiar with to avoid any unfortunate surprises.
  • A treadmill offers a great way to walk in a controlled environment where you are guaranteed a level surface. Not only does it allow you to work your various muscles and strengthen your cardiovascular system, but in the unlikely event that something does happen you will be in a safe place – like your home or a gym – rather than a mile or two down the street wondering how you are going to get back home.
  • Rowing a boat or using a rowing machine offers another great cardiovascular workout option when dealing with hip pain. Rowing causes very stress on your joints and, when done with proper form, can work a number of muscles that come to play in the hip like your glutes and your back.
  • A stationary bike or cycle is another option that can give you a solid cardio workout. The cycle can work on your quadriceps muscles in a safe, controlled environment. There is no need to worry about traffic, inclement weather, or difficult terrain. Instead, you can safely work out at the speed and resistance level you want. No surprises. No unforeseen difficulties.

Remember, though, that when trying to treat an injury like a labral tear in the hip, always consult a medical professional before starting a new exercise regimen. If you are not sure what your hip pain is, find out in another blog post I wrote on how to test for a hip labral tear.

Hip Labral Tear Exercises Targeting the Glutes

There are a number of exercises commonly used by physical therapists to help patients strengthen their gluteus maximus or “glutes” as it is more commonly called. The gluteus maximus is a large muscle located in the back of the hip. It can be strengthened by the following exercises.

  • The Bridge – To do the bridge, begin by lying on your back and then drawing your feet towards your buttocks, keeping them about hip-width apart. Pull them in far enough so that your knees are at a roughly 90-degree angle. Squeeze your stomach muscles and then lift your buttocks into the air. Try to position yourself so that your spine is relatively straight. Hold this position for several seconds and then lower your bottom back to the floor.
  • The Single-Leg Bridge – A variant on the bridge, the single-leg bridge begins the same way. Lie on your back and draw your feet in towards your buttocks. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart. Press one foot into the ground and extend the other so that that leg forms a straight line with your body. Squeeze your glutes and then lower your leg.
  • The Clamshell – to do the clamshell, you must first lie on your side (your good side) with your legs slightly bent and placed on top of the other. Make sure your knees are touching and your feet are touching. Then, while maintaining contact between your feet, lift the top knee into the air as far you can comfortably go. Hold for a moment or two, and then lower.
  • Side Leg Lift – to do the side leg lift, begin by lying on your side making sure to keep your body straight. Stack your legs on top of each other, foot to foot, knee to knee, etc… Then, while keeping your toes pointing directly ahead and your hips properly stacked so they don’t roll out, lift your top leg up a few feet. Hold for a few moments, and then lower it back down.

Those are just four exercises that target the glutes and can help a patient suffering from a labral tear in the hip. There are plenty of others that are not discussed here – from the donkey kick to side planks to a whole host of others. Your physical therapist may ask you to do any number of exercises not listed here. And, as time goes on, he or she may even have you add in a resistance band to increase the benefit derived from the exercises. That’s to be expected.

Using Physical Therapy To Treat Hip Labral Tears

Physical therapy and chiropractic care are the usual conservative methods of choice when it comes to the treatment of a hip labral tear. And when dealing with that type of injury, a physical therapist, or a chiropractor for that matter, will usually rely on a collection of exercises like those listed here in this post.

They may also employ other techniques in situations of hip pain where the issue may not strictly be a hip labral tear. For example, they may use passive physical therapy techniques like electrical muscle stimulation, ice, heat, and traction.

But for many, if not most, hip issues the go-to is exercise. Whether it be a hip labral tear or simply uneven hips, the lion’s share of conservative rehabilitation will be accomplished through the judicious use of stretching and exercise.

Not only can a physical therapist treat your condition, but he or she may also be able to help you avoid future injuries by training you in the proper form and appropriate use of warm-up stretching and such.

Here at Better Health Alaska, we have developed a reputation for providing physical therapy that is trusted by thousands of Anchorage patients and the surrounding areas. We deal with hip labral tears and a slew of other issues.

Exercises to Avoid When You Have a Hip Labral Tear

When doing exercises to rehabilitate a hip labral tear, there are a few pointers to take into consideration. Certain exercises and movements should be avoided to keep from straining or even damaging your hip further.

With that in mind, try to avoid the following:

  • Strenuous sports like football, wrestling, and basketball
  • Hiking
  • Running
  • Heavy weight lifting

Additionally, you should avoid any exercises that use twisting motions such as those exercises that rotate the hip inwards. You should also avoid stressing the hip flexor muscles located on the front part of the hip. This includes those exercises that involve drawing the knee up towards the chest.

Finally, the last thing to remember is to not wait to get treatment. Waiting, more often than not, leads to a worsening of the condition, especially for both acute and chronic sports injuries – which are both common causes of hip trouble.


A hip labral tear can be a significant issue. But with the assistance of a qualified physical therapist or chiropractor and the use of the appropriate exercises, it can be treated and healed. With any luck, your days of hip pain will be short-lived.


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2953303/
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2212628716300238