Labral and SLAP Tears

Labral and SLAP tears are common shoulder injuries affecting the stability and functionality of your shoulder joint. This article will discuss their symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment options, including SLAP tear surgery.

If you’re experiencing shoulder discomfort or suspect a labral tear, schedule an appointment with Dr. Brent J. Morris in Lexington, Kentucky. Dr. Morris offers personalized treatment options tailored to your needs that can help you regain optimal shoulder function.

Dr. Brent J. Morris, MD, smiling.

Orthopedic Shoulder & Elbow Surgeon located in Lexington, KY

What Are Labral and SLAP Tears?

Your shoulder labrum is a thick band of tissue that helps connect the socket of the scapula (glenoid) with the head of the upper arm (humerus). It surrounds your shoulder socket keeping your shoulder joint stable. It also provides an attachment for the long head of your biceps muscle and several ligaments.

Shoulder labrum tears can occur in different places. A SLAP tear refers to a specific location of the labrum. SLAP stands for “superior labrum anterior-posterior.” This means that the shoulder labral tear occurs on the top of the labrum from the front to the back. This is the same place where the long head of the biceps tendon attaches.

SLAP tears, also known as SLAP lesions, can vary in severity. There may be some minor fraying, or it can completely detach from the shoulder socket.

Types of Shoulder Labral Tears

Your labrum can tear in different locations. The different types of labral tears are as follows:

  • SLAP tear: This occurs at the top of your labrum, from the front around to the back. It is where the long head of the biceps tendon attaches.
  • Bankart tear: This is a tear in the lower part of the glenoid at the front.
  • Posterior labrum tear: This refers to a tear at the back of the shoulder joint.

Symptoms of a Shoulder Labral Tear

Shoulder labral tears can cause symptoms in your shoulder and biceps tendon. The following are some of the symptoms of a labral tear:

  • Pain in your shoulder when lifting your arm overhead
  • Clicking, grinding, or popping during shoulder movement
  • Shoulder weakness
  • Reduced range of motion

Causes of a Labral Tear

A shoulder labral tear is a common injury for those who perform frequent overhead arm movements. These may include weightlifters, tennis players, and manual workers. Labral tears are usually a result of one of the following:

  • Repetitive use: If you frequently perform overhead motion with your arm, you may be at risk of tearing your labrum.
  • Sudden force: Falling onto an outstretched arm or sudden forceful movements can cause a tear in your labrum.
  • Wear and tear: As you get older, your labrum can be subject to wear and tear and can eventually tear.

Diagnosing a Shoulder Labral Tear

A doctor’s diagnosis is important to determine the exact cause of the symptoms. 

Diagnosis will include a physical exam. Dr. Morris will consider your symptoms and move your arm and shoulder in different positions. Imaging tests could be used to help rule out other injuries and identify the exact location and severity of your injury. These tests may include X-rays and an MRI scan.

How Are Labral and SLAP Tears Treated

Dr. Morris will determine the best course of treatment according to the severity of your injury. If the injury is minor, a shoulder labrum tear can be treated using non-surgical treatment. This may include rest and physical therapy. However, if the injury is severe or there is damage to ligaments or tendons, Dr. Morris may recommend SLAP tear surgery.

Common surgeries for a SLAP tear include the following:

SLAP Repair

During SLAP repair, Dr. Morris uses minimally invasive surgery to repair the labrum. Ligaments may need to be reattached to the bone at the same time.

Biceps Tenodesis

This procedure involves detaching the biceps tendon from the shoulder labrum and then reattaching it onto the humerus (or upper arm) bone. This allows the tendon to retain its function.

Preventing SLAP Tears

To prevent shoulder labral tears, you must avoid putting excess stress on your labrum. Some measures you can take to prevent tearing your labrum are as follows:

  • Strengthening the muscles in your shoulder and around your shoulder blade
  • Lift with the correct posture
  • Increase your shoulder and middle back flexibility

Schedule Your Appointment Today

Don’t let shoulder pain or limited range of motion keep you from enjoying your daily activities. If you’re seeking relief from shoulder discomfort, Dr. Morris is here to help.

Brent J. Morris, MD, specializes in diagnosing and treating shoulder injuries in Lexington, Kentucky, including labral and SLAP tears. With advanced techniques and personalized care, we aim to provide effective solutions to alleviate your symptoms and restore your shoulder function.

Don’t wait any longer to address your shoulder concerns. Contact us now to schedule your consultation and embark on the path to recovery with confidence.

Medically reviewed by Brent J. Morris, MD

"Dr. Morris first listened to me, then examined me and answered all my questions. I found him thorough, straight to the point, and eager to help offering several strategies. I liked him and trust him." - Judy K.