Labral Tear

(Glenoid Labrum Tear; Labral Tear, Shoulder)

Pronounced: Lay-bral Tear, Shoulder

Definition

A shoulder labral tear is tear of the labrum. The labrum is the tissue that helps hold the end of the arm bone in place.

Shoulder Joint
Shoulder joint repair

The tool and arrow point to the labrum (cartilage) of the glenoid.

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Causes

In some people, it may be caused by the normal aging process. In others, it may be caused by trauma from:

  • A fall on an outstretched hand
  • A pull on an arm, such as from losing grip of something that is heavy
  • A direct blow to the shoulder
  • A dislocated shoulder
  • A motor vehicle accident
  • Repetitive overhead activities, such as sports that involve throwing

Risk Factors

This problem is more common in men. Other things that may raise your risk are:

  • Playing some sports, such as baseball (pitchers), golf, weightlifting, and tennis
  • Lifting heavy objects
  • Having a health problem that may result in falls, such as weak muscles

Symptoms

Problems may be:

  • Shoulder or arm pain
  • Pain that is worse with shoulder movement
  • A painful clicking or popping feeling in the shoulder
  • Catching or loosening feeling in the shoulder
  • Weakness of the shoulder or arm

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. You will also be asked how the injury happened. A physical exam will be done. It will focus on the shoulder and arm. You may need to see a doctor who treats bones.

Images will be taken of the shoulder. This can be done with an x-ray. An MRI scan may also be done.

Treatment

It will take 4 to 6 weeks for most people to heal. The goals of treatment are to manage pain and support the shoulder as it heals. This may include:

  • Medicine to ease pain and swelling
  • A sling to keep the shoulder in place as it heals
  • Exercises to help with strength and range of motion

Surgery

Some people may need surgery when other methods do not help. This can be done with shoulder arthroscopy. A thin, lighted tube is inserted through a small incision in the shoulder. Small instruments are also passed through the opening. The torn ligament or tissue is removed or sewn together. Wires or tacks may be used to reattach any torn tendons.

Prevention

Doing stretching and strengthening exercises that target the shoulder can help lower the risk of this injury.

RESOURCES:

Arthroscopy Association of North America
http://www.aana.org

Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
http://orthoinfo.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Orthopaedic Association
http://www.coa-aco.org

Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
http://www.canorth.org

REFERENCES:

Calcei JG, Boddapati V, et al. Diagnosis and Treatment of Injuries to the Biceps and Superior Labral Complex in Overhead Athletes. Curr Rev Musculoskelet Med. 2018 Mar;11(1):63-71.

Labral Tears. Internet Society of Orthopaedic Surgery & Trauma website. Available at: http://www.orthogate.org/patient-education/shoulder/labral-tears.html. Updated September 4, 2015. Accessed December 5, 2019.

Shoulder Joint Tear (Glenoid Labrum Tear). American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00426. Updated October 2017. Accessed December 5, 2019.

What is a labrum/labral tear? Johns Hopkins Medicine website. Available at: http://www.hopkinsortho.org/labrum_tear.html. Accessed December 5, 2019.

Last reviewed September 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Laura Lei-Rivera, PT, DPT, GCS  Last Updated: 12/5/2019