Shoulder Labral Tear

What is a shoulder labral tear, and how is it treated?

Shoulder pain is a common complaint that affects people of all ages and lifestyles. Whether you’re an athlete, manual laborer, or office worker, shoulder pain can limit your ability to perform even the simplest tasks. One possible cause of shoulder pain is a shoulder labrum tear, which can occur as a result of injury or overuse.

If you are experiencing shoulder pain or suspect you may have a shoulder labrum tear, it is important to seek medical attention promptly. At OrthoNeuro, our experienced team can evaluate your symptoms and recommend the best course of treatment for your individual needs.

Contact us today to schedule a consultation and get on the path to recovery. We have multiple locations within Columbus, OH for your convenience.

What Is the Labrum?

The labrum is a piece of fibrous cartilage that surrounds the edge of the shoulder socket, providing support and cushioning for the joint. It acts as a bumper, preventing the ball of the humerus from slipping out of the socket. The labrum also serves as an attachment point for important structures such as the biceps tendon.

The shoulder labrum plays a critical role in allowing us to perform everyday activities and sports that require overhead movements.

Anatomy of the Shoulder

The shoulder joint is one of the most mobile and complex joints in the body, allowing for a wide range of motion. The shoulder joint is made up of the upper arm bone (humerus), the shoulder blade (scapula), and the collarbone (clavicle). However, to maintain stability and support, it also relies on the labrum.

The biceps tendon attaches to the superior labrum, the top portion of the labrum, and helps to stabilize the joint during overhead movements. When the biceps tendon contracts, it pulls on the labrum, helping to keep the humerus in place.

What Is a Shoulder Labral Tear?

A shoulder labrum tear refers to a tear or injury to the labrum, which is a piece of cartilage that helps hold the upper arm bone in the shoulder socket. 

There are several types of shoulder labrum tears, including:

  • SLAP tear: A SLAP (Superior Labrum Anterior Posterior) tear occurs when the labrum is torn from the front to the back. This type of tear usually occurs due to repetitive overhead motions, such as throwing a baseball or swimming.
  • Bankart tear: A Bankart tear occurs when the labrum is torn from the front of the shoulder socket. This type of tear is common in individuals who experience shoulder dislocations or subluxations of the shoulder.
  • Posterior labral tear: A posterior labral tear occurs when the labrum is torn from the back of the shoulder socket. This type of tear is less common than the other types and can occur due to trauma or repetitive overhead motions.
  • Combined tear: A combined tear involves multiple types of tears, such as a combination of a SLAP tear and a Bankart tear.

What Causes a Shoulder Labral Tear?

A torn shoulder labrum, including tears in the superior labrum, can result from a variety of factors, including trauma, repetitive overhead activities, age-related wear and tear, genetic factors, and structural abnormalities. 

Understanding the causes of shoulder labrum tears can help individuals take steps to prevent them and seek appropriate treatment when necessary.

Symptoms of a shoulder labrum tear can include:

  • Pain in the shoulder joint (especially when reaching overhead or lifting objects)
  • A popping or grinding sensation in the shoulder
  • Weakness in the arm 
  • A feeling of instability or looseness in the shoulder

How Are Labral Tears of the Shoulder Diagnosed?

A torn shoulder labrum can be diagnosed through a combination of a physical exam, medical history, and imaging tests.

Physical Exam

During a physical exam, a healthcare professional will examine the shoulder joint for signs of a torn labrum. They may move the arm into different positions to assess the range of motion, stability, and strength. They may also perform specific tests, such as the O’Brien test or the anterior slide test, to check for labral tears.

Medical History

The healthcare professional will ask questions about the individual’s symptoms, including when they started, how severe they are, and what activities make them worse. They will also ask about any previous shoulder injuries or surgeries, as well as any medical conditions that may contribute to the development of a torn labrum.

Imaging Tests

Imaging tests such as X-rays, MRI, or CT scans may be used to confirm the diagnosis of a torn labrum. X-rays can show any bone abnormalities or bony changes around the shoulder joint, while an MRI can provide more detailed images of the soft tissues, such as the labrum, muscles, and tendons.

How Are Shoulder Labral Tears Treated?

The treatment for a torn shoulder labrum can depend on the severity of the tear and the individual’s overall health. Here are some common methods for treating a torn labrum:

  1. Conservative treatment: If the tear is mild or moderate, conservative treatment options may be recommended. These may include rest, ice, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and physical therapy to help improve shoulder strength and range of motion.
  2. Arthroscopic surgery: If conservative treatments do not improve symptoms or if the tear is severe, arthroscopic surgery may be recommended. During this procedure, a surgeon will make small incisions in the shoulder and use a small camera and specialized instruments to repair or remove the damaged tissue.
  3. Rehabilitation: After surgery or conservative treatment, rehabilitation is an important part of the recovery process. A physical therapist can help develop an individualized exercise program to help improve shoulder strength, flexibility, and range of motion.
  4. Injection therapy: In some cases, a healthcare professional may recommend injection therapy to help reduce pain and inflammation in the shoulder joint. These may include corticosteroid injections or platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections.
  5. Lifestyle modifications: To prevent future injuries or tears, individuals may need to make lifestyle modifications, such as avoiding certain activities that put stress on the shoulder joint, improving posture and body mechanics, and engaging in regular exercise to maintain overall strength and flexibility.

Get Help From an Ortho Neuro Shoulder Specialist Today!

If you’re experiencing shoulder pain or instability, you may be suffering from a labrum tear. At OrthoNeuro, we specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of labrum tears. Schedule an appointment at one of our offices in Columbus, OH today to learn how we can help you get back to a pain-free, active lifestyle.

Shoulder Specialists

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