The labrum is a cartilage located in the shoulder joint that helps the humeral head in place. The glenoid fossa, which is the socket in the shoulder, is anatomically narrow for the head of the humerus making the shoulder joint inherently unstable. In this line, the labrum plays a significant role because it increases the depth of the socket by 50% so that the head of the humerus can move with better stability. Along with other soft structures in the shoulder, the labrum helps the shoulder joint assume various range of motion more than any other joint in the body.
When the labrum is torn, there may be pain in the shoulder joint and may limit the range of motion. More severe tearing of the labrum may make the shoulder joint less stable contributing to shoulder joint dislocation. In this line, dealing with a labrum tear immediately may help prevent further damage as well as help the shoulder joint return to its optimum motion. Dealing with labrum tear generally depends on the type of injury including:
• SLAP tear- This is a type of a labral tear seen in athletes who employ overhead motions such as tennis and baseball players. The tear is commonly located on the top most portion of the shoulder.
• Posterior Labral Tear-This labral tear, on the other hand, is a less common injury seen in athletes with internal impingement conditions. Posterior labral tear involves the pinching of the labrum and the rotator cuff at the posterior portion of the shoulder.
• Bankart Tear- Another type of a labrum tear is the Bankart tear involving shoulder dislocation tearing the labrum apart.
Based on these types, a SLAP tear and a posterior labral tear rarely needs surgery because the torn and pinched labrum can heal over simple managements. To deal with these types of labrum tears, the following may be employed:
• Physical therapy
Physical therapy is employed to strengthen the other soft structures in the joint and help stabilize the humeral head. It may involve rehabilitation exercises to increase the strength and flexibility of the soft structures in the shoulder.
• Anti-inflammatory medications
To relieve pain and inflammation on the shoulder area, anti-inflammatory medications such as naproxen and ibuprofen may be taken. Nevertheless, if pain doesn’t subside, despite the use of medications, further medical consult should be sought because this may indicate severe tear on the labrum.
For acute injuries wherein you felt sudden pain in your shoulder area following an activity or sport, icing may help reduce the inflammation and relieve pain temporarily.
If symptoms don’t go away, further diagnosis may be employed and surgery may be recommended. Surgery involves arthroscopic surgery of the shoulder joint to directly repair the torn labrum. For Bankart tears, surgery is usually imminent as the repair of the torn labrum is only the way to bring back its normal anatomic functioning.
If you suspect that you have a labrum tear, it is better to consult a health care provider or a chiropractor to help you identify what interventions are needed to relieve the symptoms.