Labral Tears of the Shoulder

Your shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint. The rounded head of the upper arm bone (humerus) fits into a socket in the shoulder blade. The socket is lined with a rim of tough, fibrous tissue called the labrum. The labrum deepens the socket and helps to stabilize the shoulder. Several of the shoulder ligaments and one of the biceps tendons are attached to the labrum. Acute trauma or repetitive shoulder motions can cause the labrum to tear.

Causes and Symptoms

Labral tears are common in throwing athletes and weightlifters due to repetitive shoulder motion. The labrum can also slowly wear away over time, eventually causing a tear; this is common in patients over the age of 40.

The labrum can also tear as the result of acute trauma, such as a car accident, a fall onto an outstretched arm, a shoulder dislocation, or any forceful or rapid movement of the arm.

Common symptoms of a labral tear include pain with overhead activities, instability in the shoulder, decreased range of motion in the shoulder, and a loss of strength. It is also common to experience a catching, locking, popping, or grinding in the affected shoulder. You may feel as though the shoulder is going to pop out of its socket. Pain may occur at night or with daily activities. Pitchers may experience a decrease in throwing velocity.

Types of Labral Tears

The labrum can tear above (superior) or below (inferior) the midpoint of the shoulder socket. Treatment for a labral tear will depend on the location and severity of the tear.

SLAP tears (superior labrum, anterior to posterior) are a common type of labral tear. A SLAP tear occurs in the upper portion of the labrum, in both the front and the back. Sometimes, the biceps tendon may also be involved in the injury.

A Bankart lesion occurs when the labrum tears below the middle of the socket and also involves the inferior glenohumeral ligament.


Labral tears are often treated with conservative methods first, but surgical methods are available if shoulder pain and function does not improve.

Nonsurgical Treatment

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen or naproxen may be recommended to reduce pain and swelling. Physical therapy may also be recommended to strengthen the shoulder and improve range of motion. The goal of physical therapy is to strengthen the muscles that support the shoulder to relieve pain and prevent further injury.

If symptoms do not improve with physical therapy, surgery may be recommended.

Surgical Treatment

Labral tears are usually repaired with arthroscopy. During an arthroscopic procedure, a small camera called an arthroscope is inserted into the joint, displaying images on a monitor in the operating room. This minimally invasive technique allows the surgeon to perform the procedure with a smaller incision than is required for open surgery.

If there are no tendons involved in the injury, and the shoulder is stable, the surgeon may simply remove the torn flap of tissue. If a tendon is torn or detached, the tendon will need to be repaired to restore stability in the shoulder. Absorbable tacks, wires, or sutures may be used to hold the tendon in place.

Treatment of Shoulder Labral Tears in Beaumont, TX

At Beaumont Bone and Joint Institute, our surgeons treat a full range of orthopedic and sports injuries, including labral tears of the shoulder. We offer nonsurgical treatment options whenever possible and offer physical therapy services on-site. If you have any questions about shoulder labral tears, or would like to schedule an appointment with one of our specialists, please call our office at (409) 838-0346 (Beaumont office) or (409) 729-5633 (Mid Country Office), or use our convenient appointment request form.