Shoulder Labrum Tear

If you experience pain, instability, decreased range of motion, or loss of strength in your shoulder, you may be dealing with a shoulder labrum tear. This condition can result in significant pain at night or while engaging in daily activities. At the Hand Center of Louisiana, our experienced and highly trained orthopaedic surgeons can evaluate your shoulder to determine the best treatment for shoulder relief.


Table of Contents

What Is a Labral Tear?

The shoulder labrum is a piece of soft cartilage that surrounds the ball-shaped joint at the top of your upper arm bone. This joint sits within the small, shallow opening of the shoulder called the glenoid socket. Because the glenoid socket is shallow, the labrum helps keep the joint in place, with the help of the rotator cuff, a group of four muscles.

A labral tear occurs when there is a tear to any portion of the labrum around the glenoid socket.

Three main labrum tears can occur:

  1. Bankart tear or lesion: This type of tear occurs to the lower half of the glenoid socket. Younger people with dislocated shoulders are at higher risk of developing this injury.
  2. Posterior labrum tear: A rare type of tear, it can occur after injury to the back of the shoulder joint.
  3. SLAP tear or lesion: This type of labral tear occurs above the middle of the glenoid. SLAP stands for “superior labrum, anterior to posterior.” This tear most often occurs from repetitive overhead arm motions such as those found in tennis and baseball. SLAP tears can also occur from damage to the biceps tendon.

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What Causes Shoulder Labrum Tears?

Labrum tears can happen both from traumatic injuries as well as everyday wear and tear from repetitive motion of the upper arm. Specific causes of the injury may include:

  • A sudden jerk or tug on the arm
  • A fall on an outstretched arm
  • Direct trauma to the shoulder
  • Trauma to the shoulder while reaching overhead

Labral tears often occur with other shoulder injuries, including rotator cuff injuries, torn biceps tendons, and dislocated shoulders.

Signs and Symptoms of a Labral Tear

Like many other types of shoulder injuries and muscle tears, labral tears are usually painful. Your shoulder joint may also feel one or more of the following sensations:

  • Grinding
  • Popping
  • Locking
  • Catching
  • Instability
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Weakness

Additionally, common signs and symptoms include pain during daily activities and at night.

Bankart tears may cause you to feel like your shoulder is moving out of its joint.

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Torn Shoulder Labrum Diagnosis

One of our doctors will perform a full examination of your arm and shoulder to diagnose a torn shoulder labrum. This examination will include testing the range of motion, stability, and pain level in your injured shoulder. Our team will ask you about activities and events that may have caused the pain.

We may recommend diagnostic testing (such as X-ray, CT scan, or MRI) at our New Orleans facility to rule out other injuries or evaluate the damage to your labrum.

Your doctor may also perform an arthroscopic examination using an arthroscope, a small camera. The arthroscope is inserted through a small incision to give your doctor a complete view of your labrum.

Torn Shoulder Labrum Treatment

Torn shoulder labrum treatment is typically treated first non-invasively. Our New Orleans-based physicians may recommend treatments that include:

  • Rest
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, such as ibuprofen or aspirin to reduce pain and swelling.
  • Cortisone, or steroid, injections for pain relief.
  • Physical therapy and specialized exercises to strengthen the muscles of your shoulder

If your shoulder labral tear symptoms do not improve or are left untreated, shoulder surgery may be needed. Labrum tears that require surgery usually require minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery. Arthroscopic treatments include debridement for partial labrum tears and repair for complete labrum detachments.

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Relieve Your Shoulder Pain

If you suspect you have a shoulder labrum tear, then we encourage you to meet with one of the highly experienced doctors at Hand Center of Louisiana. With more than 40 years of experience serving the Gulf South and Greater New Orleans regions, we provide the expertise and experience to help our patients overcome their condition with rehabilitation.

Across the continuum of care—including evaluation, diagnosis, treatment, and procedures—we deliver an exceptional experience and outcome to our patients, all under one roof. Schedule your appointment today.