Shoulder Labral Tear
(Glenoid Labrum Tear; Labral Tear, Shoulder)
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.
Shoulder labral tears occur from an injury or through long-term wear and tear. Common causes include the following:
- Dislocated shoulder
- A 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 pitchers
- Falling onto your shoulder
- Repetitive movements of the shoulder
- Lifting heavy objects
- Breaking a fall with your arms
- Direct blow to the shoulder
Symptoms may include:
- Shoulder and/or arm pain
- Catching or loosening feeling of the shoulder
- Loss of shoulder range of motion
- Weakness to shoulder and/or arm
- Pain with shoulder movement
- Popping or grinding sensation
- Achiness 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:
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 ice
- Physical 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.
To help reduce your chance of a shoulder labral tear:
- Use the proper technique when playing sports
- Avoid putting yourself at risk for trauma to the shoulder area
- Perform stretching and strengthening exercises that target the shoulder area.
Arthroscopy Association of North America
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
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.