The labrum is a gasket or disc in your shoulder joint that helps to keep the ball in the socket where the humerus joins the scapula. Your labrum is made of cartilage, much like the meniscus of the knee and is attached to the socket. It keeps the ball from slipping in and out of place.
Different types of labral tears of the shoulder
Labral tears can come in several different varieties; some are from acute injuries such as a fall on the outstretched arm or dislocation of the shoulder while others come from wear and tear with repetitive use of the shoulder. These are often seen in throwing athletes or weight lifters but can also occur if your job activities require repetitive overhead work.
Most people with a torn labrum will have pain with their overhead activities, occasionally there will be catching or locking. There may be pain at night or with simple activities such as dressing or bathing. There may also be a loss of strength or range of motion in the shoulder.
How do I know I have a labral tear of the shoulder?
A good physical examination will lead to a suggestion of a labral tear; however, an MRI is probably the best test to determine if you have a labral tear. Many times this MRI will need to be done with a contrast injected into the shoulder joint to better see the tears. If you have a torn labrum most often we will try a period of anti-inflammatories and rest combined with some physical therapy to reduce the pain and improve the stability around the shoulder. However, if there is continued difficulty with important activities or sports you may require consideration for surgery to repair the labrum. Usually through arthroscopic techniques, we can evaluate the labrum to determine the best treatment. Some tears can be repaired and some tears merely need to be trimmed in order to reduce the pain and improve the range of motion. Rehabilitation after arthroscopic labral repair is very important to your recovery. If you have further questions about labral tears, please contact me or schedule an appointment.