Labral Tear (SLAP)

A shoulder labral tear is an injury to the ring of cartilage in the shoulder joint. Two of the most common tears are the SLAP (Superior Labral tear form Anterior to Posterior) tear and the Bankart tear. Some kinds of labral tears - especially a Bankart lesion - can increase the potential for shoulder dislocations.

Fortunately, if you have - or suspect you have - a labral tear in your shoulder, the surgeons at the University of Michigan Department of Orthopaedic Surgery can help. As experts in the diagnosis and treatment of labral tears, we can recommend different treatments before recommending surgery. And, if you need surgery, rest assured that our team of skilled surgeons are nationally known for their expertise in shoulder surgery.

Our primary goal is to improve your quality of life. 

Symptoms of a Labral Tear

Symptoms of a labral tear depend on where the tear is located and may include:

  • A dull throbbing ache in the shoulder joint
  • Difficulty sleeping due to shoulder discomfort
  • "Catching" of the shoulder joint with movement
  • Pain with specific activities
  • Dislocations of the shoulder

Pain can be brought on by strenuous exertion or even household chores. Athletes may notice a loss of strength or a significant decrease in the ability to throw. 

Diagnosing a Labral Tear

It is difficult to diagnose a labral tear because it mimics other conditions, such as arthritis, rotator cuff disorders, tendonitis, a shoulder that isn't stable or a compressed nerve. 

To better understand the extent of your injury, we will:

  • Take a complete health history and conduct a physical examination to assess your tear, pinpoint the location, and check your range of motion, as well as consider any other medical conditions that might be related to your tear.
  • Take X-rays of the affected area to evaluate for any problems with the bones in your shoulder.
  • Possibly order a CT scan, MRI, and/or bone scan, if needed, to further evaluate your tear and check for additional injuries.
  • Possibly perform arthroscopic surgery to get a better look. The doctor may actually be able to repair the labrum at this time. 

Treatment for a Labral Tear

We typically like to try a non-surgical approach first. We will probably see if pain medication and/or physical therapy and rehabilitation can take care of the problem. Rehabilitation may include exercises to strengthen your rotator cuff muscles and to gently stretch the back of your shoulder. Your doctor or therapist will show you how to do the exercises.

If neither medication or physical therapy and rehabilitation work, we will look at a surgical alternative such as:

  • Arthroscopic surgery - The doctor will use a small camera to get a close look at your injury and may even be able to repair the labrum at the same time.

Our Approach to Care

As part of the University of Michigan Comprehensive Musculoskeletal Center, we collaborate with multiple disciplines, including:

  • Emergency Medicine
  • Family Medicine
  • Pediatrics
  • Physical Therapy
  • Rehabilitation
  • Radiology
  • Rheumatology

Our integrated, multidisciplinary approach to patient care enables us to develop an individualized plan for your treatment. Our goal is to improve the quality of your life.

Contact Us / Make an Appointment

  • MedSport, 877-877-9333, or 734-930-7400
  • Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PMR), 734-936-7175

Selecting a health care provider is a very important decision. Because we are highly experienced in successfully treating shoulder pain and labral tears, we would like to help you explore your options. Visit our Contact Us page to see a list of Musculoskeletal Call Centers. Our staff will be glad to talk with you about your options and how we can help.