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Shoulder Labral Tears

The ball and joint structure of the shoulder is shallower, and thus less stable, than the structure of the hip joint and require extra support.  This support is provided by the labrum, a thick disc that helps provide a deeper socket area for the ball of the joint to move within.  A tear in the labrum can result from either an injury, or be due to the tissue becoming more brittle with age.

Labral tears can result in a “catch” in the shoulder during movement, aching in the joint, and pain or pull with certain activities.  A labral tear can also increase the risk of shoulder dislocation and instability.  The types of tears to the labrum general fall into one of three patterns:

  • SLAP Tears appear at the top of the shoulder socket where the biceps tendon attaches to the shoulder.  This type of tear most commonly occurs in athletes utilizing an overhand throwing motion, such as tennis and baseball players.
  • Bankart Tears can occur during a shoulder dislocation as the ball of the joint pops out of the socket.
  • Posterior Labral Tears occur less frequently and can be the result of either the rotator cuff and the labrum becoming pinched together at the back of the shoulder, or from traumatic injury that causes posterior instability.

Labral tears are most commonly treated first through conservative, non-surgical treatments such as anti-inflammatory drugs and physical therapy.  However, if symptoms persist following conservative treatment, arthroscopic surgical intervention may be required.

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