October 18, 2019

What is a glenoid labrum tear (shoulder joint tear)?


Small television cameras, or arthroscopes, have allowed physicians to find and treat glenoid labrum tears, also known as shoulder joint tears. The cameras are used to look into the joint in order to do this.

Three bones make up the shoulder joint. They include the scapula (shoulder blade), clavicle (collarbone) and humerus (upper arm bone).

What causes labral tear in shoulder?

Shoulder tears are typically caused by repetitive motion of the shoulder or trauma.

Trauma can include:

  • Breaking a fall with your arm.
  • Abrupt pulls, likely the result of lifting something heavy.
  • An overhead reach, likely the result of trying to prevent a fall.
  • A direct hit to the shoulder.

How do you know if you have a tear in your shoulder?

A shoulder joint tear can be difficult to distinguish from other shoulder injuries because they have similar symptoms, which include:

How do you treat a shoulder tear?

Treatment begins with a medical examination. X-rays help determine if there is another cause for the symptoms. CT or MRI scans can help locate tears.

To get a proper diagnosis, arthroscopic surgery may be required to look into the joint for tears. In the middle of the glenoid socket, tears can occur above or below. There can be a SLAP tear or a Bankart lesion, depending on the location of the tear.

In the meantime, patients are sometimes prescribed anti-inflammatories rest and rehab exercises.

If symptoms persist, surgery is recommended. Surgery can either be open or arthroscopic. During an arthroscopic procedure, small incisions are made for small surgical instruments and the arthroscope is used to look at tendons.

The shoulder is considered stable if the tear is only on the rim but not the tendon. During surgery the torn flap is removed. If the tear reached the tendon, it is unstable and the tendon is either repaired or transferred.

Labral tear shoulder surgery recovery

Typically, it takes four to six months for the shoulder to heal completely.

A sling is used to rehab the shoulder for three to six weeks after surgery. Painless labral tear shoulder exercises are used for range of motion followed by exercises focused on motion and flexibility after the sling is taken off.

Learn more about shoulder treatment at OrthoIndy

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Julia Steele

By Julia Steele

Julia was the 2019 summer marketing intern at OrthoIndy. Julia is working on a bachelor’s degree in public relations, a minor in communication studies, and a concentration in media analytics at Ball State University. Julia will graduate May 2020.

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