A shoulder labral tear is a common shoulder injury, particularly for athletes that participate in sports that involve overhead motion, such as netball, swimming or weightlifting. They most commonly occur due to wear and tear, though they can also occur due to trauma or injury.
If a shoulder labral tear is diagnosed, there are non-surgical treatment options which can help you resume normal day-to-day activities with full mobility and reduced discomfort. However, to return to competing at your previous level in your chosen sport then a surgical repair of the labrum may be required.
What is a labral tear?
The labrum in the shoulder is basically a cartilage disc which is attached to the shoulder socket. It plays a crucial role in ensuring the ball of the shoulder is kept securely in place. It also helps to ensure stability and movement within the shoulder.
Like any part of the shoulder, the labrum is susceptible to injury. Repetitive movements are the most common cause of labral tears, meaning they are especially common in athletes. As the labrum is exposed to repetitive strenuous movements, it will start to fray over time, becoming prone to tears.
There is also the possibility trauma, or an injury could lead to a labral tear. These types of sudden tears tend to be more severe, with some resulting in a total dislocation of the shoulder.
What symptoms does a shoulder labral tear present?
Many shoulder injuries present similar symptoms. If suffering from a shoulder labral tear you will typically feel either an aching or pain within the shoulder, and the joint may be weak or unstable. You may also experience a popping sensation, along with pain when you carry out certain overhead movements, such as throwing a ball. A shoulder specialist will be able to diagnose the problem correctly and recommend the best treatment option for you.
Is shoulder surgery the best option?
Surgery is typically the main course of treatment offered for labral tears. However, it will depend upon your lifestyle and how severe the tear is.
If you live a more inactive lifestyle and the tear isn’t too serious, you may choose not to opt for a surgical repair. Non-surgical treatment options include taking a break from activities that are causing pain and using anti-inflammatory medications to decrease pain and swelling in the shoulder. Once pain and swelling have decreased, then physical therapy can help to strengthen the shoulder muscles, improving function and mobility.
However, if you’re a keen sports player and you want to get back to playing as soon as possible, surgery will be the best option. This is because the labrum isn’t able to fully repair itself, so while the tear may improve, without surgery it’s unlikely to ever fully heal. This means there could still be some level of pain and weakness experienced if you do choose to avoid surgery.
If you suspect you are suffering from a shoulder labral tear, book a consultation with the London Shoulder Specialists today. You will be assessed to establish whether or not a labral tear is responsible for your shoulder pain and from there you will discover the best treatment options moving forward. To book an appointment, call +44 (0) 203 195 2442.