Labral Tears

Labral Tear Overview

A labral tear is a tear of the shoulder labrum, a rim of soft cartilage that helps stabilize the shoulder. A unique type of labral tear is a SLAP tear. The acronym SLAP stands for “superior labrum tear from anterior to posterior”. As its name indicates, a SLAP tear is a serious injury that requires as soon as possible medical attention. An appointment with a Carolina Orthopaedic and Neurosurgical Associates’ (CONA) shoulder specialist should be made at the first sign of symptoms.

Symptoms & Causes

Labral tear symptoms include:

  • Catching, cracking, grinding, or popping when moving the shoulder
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Difficulty raising the arm above the head
  • Pain
  • Shoulder instability, a feeling that the shoulder will “give out”

Common labral tear causes include:

  • Forceful pulling of the arm
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Throwing sports injuries
  • Shoulder dislocations
  • Shoulder subluxations

Common Treatments:

Nonsurgical treatment options treat some labral tears. After a thorough evaluation, a CONA shoulder specialist may recommend a period of immobilization followed by physical therapy to strengthen and stabilize the shoulder joint as much as possible. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) and possibly a corticosteroid injection may be prescribed for pain and inflammation.

Minimally invasive surgery is the recommended treatment option for many labral tears. During a minimally invasive labral repair, a CONA specialist repairs the torn labrum and attaches it to the bone. The large shoulder muscles are not cut during surgery so patients experience less postoperative pain, respond better to physical therapy and recover quicker.


A CONA specialist:

  • Asks questions to find out exactly when and how the injury occurred
  • Carefully listens to the patient’s symptoms
  • Performs a complete shoulder examination
  • Orders and analyzes medical imaging studies (x-rays and an MRI)

An accurate diagnosis is made and an appropriate treatment plan is prescribed.

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