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.
The tool and arrow point to the cartilage of the glenoid.
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Shoulder labral tears occur from an injury or through long-term wear and tear. Common causes include the following:
Dislocated shoulderA violent overhead reach, such as when trying to stop a fall or slide
Factors that may increase your chance of a labral tear include:
Participation in certain sports, such as:
Baseball pitchersGolfWeightliftingTennisFalling onto your shoulderRepetitive movements of the shoulderLifting heavy objectsBreaking a fall with your armsDirect blow to the shoulder
Symptoms may include: Shoulder and/or arm painCatching or loosening feeling of the shoulderLoss of shoulder range of motionWeakness to shoulder and/or armPain with shoulder movementPopping or grinding sensationAchiness of the shoulder
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Imaging tests to evaluate the shoulder and surrounding structures may include: MRI scanCT scan
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:
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)Rest, heat, and/or icePhysical 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.
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.
After surgery, you will be given a
to wear for up to 4 weeks. When the sling is removed, you will work with a physical therapist to gradually strengthen your arm muscles and increase your motion.
To help reduce your chance of a shoulder labral tear: Use the proper technique when playing sportsAvoid putting yourself at risk for trauma to the shoulder areaPerform stretching and strengthening exercises that target the shoulder area.
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_tear.html. Accessed November 21, 2013.
Last reviewed August 2014 by John C. Keel, MD; Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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