Skip to main content

Glenoid Labrum Tear Symptoms and Evaluation

People with labrum tears usually have pain deep within their shoulder with activity.  Sometimes that pain may radiate or move down the front of their arm along the bicep muscle.  Other times they will feel a click or pop within their shoulder.  Sometimes the symptoms are worse with rest or at night when trying to sleep.  The problems may start after a single injury.  Most frequently it happens when trying to lift or catch a heavy object, or following a fall onto an outstretched arm.  Labrum tears in the back of the shoulder are seen frequently in weight lifters who bench press and snowboarders after falls.

The labrum is a rim of cartilage around the socket, or glenoid, of the shoulder.  It functions similar to a curb or bumper and helps to keep the shoulder centered within the socket.  Attached to the labrum are a set of ligaments which also stabilize the shoulder.  When the labrum is torn, the clicking that you feel is that torn cartilage getting caught as the ball, or humerus, of the shoulder slides over the tear.

If you continue to have problems, your doctor can discuss your specific problems and limitation.  A detailed physical exam can usually reproduce your symptoms and help your doctor to understand the extent of your injury.  Frequently, a MRI with contrast material injected into your shoulder can help to finalize the diagnosis.

Non-Operative Treatment of Glenoid Labrum Tears

Early treatment of glenoid labrum tears may include physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medication, or a cortisone injection into your shoulder.  These may completely resolve your symptoms.  Physical therapy for glenoid labrum tears begins by focusing on the muscles around your shoulder blade and core, including your abdominals and low back, and then works into strengthening your rotator cuff muscles.  After several visits with the therapist here or near your home, you can complete much of the therapeutic exercises on your own at home.  Glenoid labrum tears are frequently the cause of an associated rotator cuff tendonitis.  Anti-inflammatory medicine can reduce the swelling that accompanies rotator cuff tendonitis and can help with the pain of both problems.  Over the counter or prescription medication are both useful.  Additionally, your doctor may offer you a cortisone shot on the day of your visit in an attempt to bring you pain relief right away.  The injection is actually a mixture of cortisone, a steroid similar to a chemical your own body makes, and lidocaine, a numbing medicine that may take your pain away within minutes of the injection.  The injection is placed inside your shoulder, just on top of the rotator cuff.  This injection may relieve your pain permanently.  If not, the injection can be repeated.  Numerous injections are to be avoided, as they may only mask a problem that needs more definitive treatment.

Arthroscopic Glenoid Labrum Repair

If your pain or weakness persists despite a course of nonoperative treatment, you may decide to undergo arthroscopic labral repair.  This is an outpatient surgery, or you may spend one night in the hospital.  You will have general anesthesia as well as an injection in your shoulder known as an interscalene block so that you have very little discomfort following the surgery.  Your arm with be immobilized in a pillow and sling immediately following the surgery.  You will return within the first week of surgery for skin suture removal.  Following this, you can begin to bathe normally.  You will start your own rehabilitation early, with your first goal being to regain your motion.

The primary goal of the surgery is alleviate the pain within your shoulder.  The plan during the surgery is to use bone anchors and semi-permanent stitches to sew the torn cartilage back down to the bony socket of your shoulder.  All of this work is done through two or three ¼ inch incisions around your shoulder and viewed through a pencil sized arthroscopic digital camera.

Intact superior labrum
Intact superior labrum

Superior labral tear
Superior labral tear

superior labral tear repair
Superior labral tear repair