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Shoulder Pain - Labral Tears

The labrum is a rubbery tissue made of fibrocartilage that lines the scapula in which the head of the humerus rests.The cartilage is primarily a shock absorber and allows for seamless gliding of the joint. It is commonly hurt in an acute injury such as sport or gym injury, but it can be less severe and overlooked as a cause of chronic shoulder pain. The injury itself can be the cartilage detaching from the bony surface, or can be from the insertion of the biceps tendon.

Labral tears aren’t often a sole injury, they happen with rotator cuff tears, instability/dislocations and impingements of the shoulder. You are at greater risk of having a labral tear if you do a lot of throwing or swimming, etc. Chronic instability can lead to greater incidence of injury as well. They also generally occur on the dominant arm. These injuries are 5 times more common in males compared to females.

Symptoms Pain is worse with cross body and overhead activities. Pain is usually deep in the shoulder joint, but can be felt at the front. Can hear or feel snapping and catching with motion. Occasional night pain, or with daily living activities. A sense of instability, with decreased motion and strength.



In the early stages of injury, pain management and restoring movement are key factors, whilst trying to avoid positions or activities that cause pain. Anti-inflammatories or corticosteroid injections may be required during the acute phase. A scan may be required to assess the full extent of the injury. Occasionally an arthroscope may be required for in depth investigation.

A low level labral injury is treated like most other shoulder injuries - maintain and gain strength as early as it is safe to do so, however this stage alone may take 2-3 weeks depending on severity. Rehab includes the entire shoulder and mechanics, with particular attention paid to the biceps for strength and stability.

Surgery Unfortunately in severe tears conservative therapy doesn’t have a fantastic strike rate and some shoulders will require surgical repair, particularly if there are dislocations or biceps rupture. After the wound has healed and you are out of a sling (looking a few weeks here) then standard rehab protocols will start, and you’re looking at a recovery time of around 3 months.

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