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Diagnosing and Treating a Labral Tear of the Shoulder

Diagnosing and Treating a Labral Tear of the Shoulder

Whether they’re the cause of fall, age, or exercise, most shoulder injuries present a lot of the same symptoms: stiffness, pain, and a lack of strength. Therefore, recognizing a specific shoulder impairment often requires a methodology more complex than a simple visual examination. With regards to labral tears specifically, diagnosing and treating the injury can be even more of a challenge. 

What Is a Labral Tear of the Shoulder? 

Connective cartilage resting between the ball and socket of the shoulder joint, the labrum is largely responsible for the integrity of the entire shoulder. After repetitive athletic use or a traumatic shoulder incident, this cartilage becomes susceptible to tearing. The two most common types of labral tears include: 

  • Superior labrum from anterior to posterior (SLAP) tear

    As the name suggests, a SLAP tear runs from the front of the labrum to the back. It is often the result of energetic motions occurring above the shoulder or head. Commonly seen in volleyball and tennis players, SLAP lesions frequently occur in tandem with bicep tendon injuries. 

  • Bankart tear

    Unlike SLAP tears, Bankart tears occur in the lower or back side of the labrum. Bankart tears are often seen in younger athletes or active adolescents, and they are commonly found in patients who also have shoulder dislocations.  

While the more common types of labral tears involve different areas of the shoulder, they tend to exhibit similar symptoms in patients. Stiff shoulder movements, difficulties with motion, and general pain are the leading signs of a labral tear. 

What Are the Steps to Diagnose a Labral Tear? 

Labral tears aren’t often the first injuries that specialists search for in patients with shoulder pain. After measuring range of motion and general shoulder condition, an orthopaedist may order an X-ray to understand if there are any other, more obvious causes to the symptoms. 

Furthermore, X-rays alone will not produce images of the actual labrum. Therefore, if there are no associated injuries present on the X-ray, an orthopaedist may request an MRI or similar scan to get a visual representation of the labral structure. 

What Are the Treatments for a Labral Tear? 

There are a number of conservative treatment options that orthopaedists may initially recommend depending on the severity and type of tear, including: 

  • Rest
  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Physical therapy 
  • Cortisone injections 
  • Shoulder reduction 

If, however, a patient doesn’t respond to the above treatment options, surgical intervention may be the most appropriate course of care. The most common surgical recommendations for a labral tear are arthroscopic, involving a minimally invasive removal of damaged cartilage. Following the operation, patients are expected to recover with four weeks, assuming they’ve adhered to the recommended amounts of shoulder rest and their personalized physical therapy program. 

Orthopaedic Specialists in St. Augustine 

Athletes of all ages are susceptible to labral tears, which is why the team at Orthopaedic Associates of St. Augustine encourages immediate evaluation of any shoulder injury. Honored to provide specialized shoulder treatment options, including arthroscopy and physical therapy, our orthopaedists prioritize prompt repair and recovery to each and every patient. To schedule an appointment, fill out our online request form or call 904-825-0540.


Dr. Volk, expert in ArthroscopyALBERT VOLK, MD 
Board certifications in Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine. Dr. Volk specializes in an all-arthroscopic rotator cuff repair of the shoulder.