The shoulders play an important part in many activities. This can be from everyday tasks, like combing the hair or taking a cereal box from the cupboard, to playing sports, such as swimming, tennis, or basketball. If doing these things seems easy, it's all thanks to the labrum - the cartilage that lines the ball and socket joint.
But, overuse or sudden impact to the shoulder damage the labrum. When this happens, you might experience a painful "locking" feeling, especially when lifting heavy objects. For cases like these, orthopedic specialists in Suffolk County, NY, may diagnose you with a labral tear. But, what exactly is it?
Learn about this injury, its causes, and its treatment processes by reading this blog.
The Shoulder Labrum
The labrum is the soft, cup-shaped cartilage in the shoulder. This rubbery tissue inside the glenoid socket is responsible for:
- Connecting the upper arm bone (humerus) to the shoulder bone
- Reducing friction from the two bones
The rotator cuff, a group of muscles that surround the shoulder, helps stabilize the labrum. This allows the connecting arm to abduct (pull toward the body) and adduct (rotate away from the body).
Shoulder Labral Tears
Shoulder labral tears happen when the repetitive abduction or adduction of the arms causes friction that frays the soft tissue layer surrounding the joint. But, aside from overuse, they can be the result of a traumatic injury to the shoulder or upper arm.
Some specific causes include:
- Sudden tug on the arm
- A blunt hit to the shoulder
- Falling on an outstretched arm
Labral tears can also be seen as a normal result of aging. Since cartilage wears down over time, older patients with the condition have frayed or torn labrum even if they haven't recently participated in sports or received acute injuries.
Shoulder labral tears have 3 main types based on where the lesion is located.
- SLAP: This is an acronym that stands for "superior labrum, anterior to posterior." The tear is located at the top of the glenoid, which reaches from the front to the back of the socket.
- Bankert: The tear is on the lower half of the glenoid socket.
- Posterior: The injury is at the back of the shoulder joint, which affects the labrum.
Shoulder labral tears are painful. People often describe a locking, grinding, or popping sensation inside their shoulders. Patients diagnosed with the condition also have the following symptoms:
- Pain when doing everyday tasks or sleeping
- Sense of instability in the shoulder
- Decreased range of motion
- Loss of strength
Orthopedic care specialists begin treating labral tears by checking the shoulder's range of motion, pain level, and stability. This allows them to see the extent of the damage or if other injuries are affecting the patient.
In most cases, labral tears can be treated through nonsurgical methods. A combination of physical therapy, rest, and over-the-counter medications is effective in relieving the symptoms and helping the injured ligaments heal.
Meanwhile, if nonsurgical treatment isn't sufficient, specialists usually recommend arthroscopy - a minimally invasive procedure where a camera is inserted in the shoulder through a small incision. This allows the surgeon to have a more detailed view of the joint for trimming, repairing, or reattaching the labrum.
This is everything you should know about labral tears. Contact Peconic Bay Medical Center and talk to one of their orthopedic doctors in Suffolk County, NY, if you're experiencing any of the symptoms.