A shoulder labral tear is an injury to the shoulder joint cartilage.
Of the several types of labral tears, SLAP (superior labral tear from anterior to posterior) tears are most common. These tears occur at the top of the shoulder, most commonly in sports involving overhead throwing motions, such as a baseball. Another common tear pattern is a Bankart Tear, which occurs simultaneously with a shoulder dislocation and can create significant instability, creating increased risk of another dislocation. The third most common are posterior labral tears, sometimes referred to as an internal impingement, in which the rotator cuff and the labrum are pinched together, significantly reducing range of motion and causing significant discomfort.
Symptoms depend on the location of the tear, but can include reduced range of motion, stiffness and pain with activity and aching in the shoulder joint. Catching or popping may be felt with shoulder movement, because the loose ends of the torn labrum are moving within the joint.
The type of tear determines what type of treatment to use. Physical therapy is usually a successful treatment option and might include:
- Rest from activities that cause pain
- Shoulder strengthening exercises, to help support the joint and decrease strain
- Stretching exercises, to help improve the function of the muscles surrounding the shoulder
- Manual therapy to decrease pain and improve movement
If surgery is necessary, it is typically done arthroscopically to re-attach the torn labrum.