Shoulder Labrum Tear

Shoulder Labrum Tear

Shoulder labrum tear

A labral tear represents a tear of the labrum, which is a piece of fibrocartilage (rubbery soft tissue) attached to the rim of the shoulder socket that helps keep the ball of the joint in place.

The shoulder is the most mobile joint in the human body, but this great mobility comes at the expense of stability and increased injury risk.

A labral tear may occur slowly over time or suddenly as the result of accidents such as a motor vehicle accident, a fall on an outstretched arm or a shoulder dislocation. People who participate in repetitive overhead sports, such as throwing athletes, are more prone to suffer from a labral tear.


Structures involved

The shoulder joint is comprised of three bones: the upper arm bone called the humerus, the shoulder blade and the collarbone. The link between the arm and the torso is done between the humerus and the shoulder blade. The humerus rests in a shallow socket on the side of the shoulder blade called the glenoid cavity and the labrum helps to add depth to this socket, making the joint more stable.

In the presence of a labral tear caused by repetitive movements, muscles of the rotator cuff, a group of muscles stabilizing the shoulder, are often also irritated.



Signs & Symptoms that you may experience with Shoulder Labrum Tear

Everyone will react differently after an injury and recovery will depend on the severity of it. A tear of the labrum can cause but is not limited to, pain at the front of the shoulder, a feeling that your shoulder is coming out of its socket, weakness of the arm and limited range of motion. Pain is often felt when trying to lift the arm overhead. Clicking or cracking sounds can sometimes be heard when moving the arm, with a catching sensation in your shoulder.

It is also possible to feel pain during the night when sleeping on the affected shoulder.



Your rehabilitation plan, health, fitness & nutritional status will affect recovery speed. There are multiple types of labrum tears but the most common is called a superior labrum anterior and posterior tear (SLAP).

Most of the time, you can expect to recover functionally from a labrum tear. This means that even though the tear might still be there, you will be able to perform your activities of daily living without pain. It can take a few months to get back to your pre-tear functional level.


▶ WHAT TO DO with Shoulder Labrum Tear

Early Stage

Relative rest is a good way to protect your shoulder and prevent further damage, but it’s important to avoid overprotecting your injury. A few days rest where you avoid pain-inducing movement and activities might be necessary. A quick but progressive return to your activities of daily living, light cardiovascular exercise and specific range of motion and strengthening exercises will allow better recovery.


Follow your practitioner’s advice. It will help you manage the different phases of the recovery process and will increase the likelihood of successful rehabilitation. Your practitioner will assist you during your rehabilitation program in order to regain your normal range of motion, strength and endurance, optimal motor control and functional status.

As per the principles of rehabilitation for a labrum tear, movement rehabilitation and relearning through therapeutic exercises is an important part of functional recovery. A progressive exercise program performed over a few weeks period is pretty standard.


Don’t rely on passive treatment only. Each phase of the rehabilitation process is important. Patients that are actively involved in their treatment plan tend to recover faster. Keep in mind that pain is not always a good indicator of tissue damage. As soon as you feel better and the pain is well managed in collaboration with your therapist, you should reintroduce light strengthening exercises as tolerated.

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