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Shoulder Labral Tear

Definition

A shoulder labral tear is tear of the labrum. The labrum is the tissue that holds the end of the arm bone, known as the humerus, in place.

Shoulder Joint
Shoulder joint repair
The tool and arrow point to the cartilage of the glenoid.
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Causes

Shoulder labral tears occur from an injury or through long-term wear and tear. Common causes include the following:

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your chance of a labral tear include:

  • Participation in certain sports, such as:
    • Baseball pitchers
    • Golf
    • Weightlifting
    • Tennis
  • Falling onto your shoulder
  • Repetitive movements of the shoulder
  • Lifting heavy objects
  • Breaking a fall with your arms
  • Direct blow to the shoulder

Symptoms

Symptoms may include:

  • Shoulder and/or arm pain
  • Catching or loosening feeling of the shoulder
  • Loss of shoulder range of motion
  • Weakness to shoulder and/or arm
  • Pain with shoulder movement
  • Popping or grinding sensation
  • Achiness of the shoulder

Diagnosis

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.

Images may be taken of your shoulder. This can be done with:

Treatment

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. You will likely be referred to a specialist such as an orthopedic surgeon. Treatment options include the following:

Medical Treatment

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Rest, heat, and/or ice
  • Physical therapy to strengthen muscles

Generally, this treatment is tried for several weeks. If there is no improvement, surgery is considered. Your doctor may also inject a steroid directly into your shoulder to decrease inflammation and pain.

Surgical Treatment

In a shoulder arthroscopy, your surgeon inserts a thin, lighted tube through a small incision to view the injury and fix it. Small instruments are threaded through this tube. The torn ligament/tissue may be removed or sewn together. Wires or tacks may also be used to reattach any torn tendons.

In a shoulder arthroscopy, your surgeon inserts a thin, lighted tube through a small incision to view the injury and fix it. Small instruments are threaded through this tube. The torn ligament/tissue may be removed or sewn together. Wires or tacks may also be used to reattach any torn tendons.

Rehabilitation

After surgery, you will be given a sling to wear for three to four weeks. When the sling is removed, you will work with a physical therapist to gradually strengthen your arm muscles and increase your motion.

Prevention

Follow these guidelines to prevent a shoulder labral tear:

  • Use the proper technique when playing sports.
  • Avoid putting yourself at risk for trauma to the shoulder area.
  • Perform stretching and strengthening exercises that target the shoulder area.

Revision Information

  • American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

    http://orthoinfo.aaos.org

  • Arthroscopy Association of North America

    http://www.aana.org

  • Canadian Orthopaedic Association

    http://www.coa-aco.org

  • Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation

    http://www.canorth.org

  • Labral Tears. Internet Society of Orthopaedic Surgery & Trauma website. Available at: http://www.orthogate.org/patient-education/shoulder/labral-tears.html. Updated July 27, 2006. Accessed November 21, 2013.

  • Shoulder Joint Tear (Glenoid Labrum Tear). American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00426. Updated January 2001. Accessed November 21, 2013.

  • What is a labrum/labral tear? Johns Hopkins Medicine website. Available at: http://www.hopkinsortho.org/labrum%5Ftear.html. Accessed November 21, 2013.