How to Treat a Torn Labrum of the Shoulder

shoulder pain

The labrum is a piece of fibrocartilage that is attached to the rim of the shoulder socket. Its purpose is to keep the ball of the joint in place and prevent it from becoming loose. It also acts as a cushion between the socket part of the shoulder, known as the glenoid, and the head of the humerus. Unfortunately, if this rubbery cartilage is torn then there is far less absorption, enabling the bones to rub against one another and cause you pain.

Labrum tears are more common than you might expect. Fortunately, they can be treated, and it is possible to make a full recovery. Here is what you need to know about labrum tears and how to treat a torn labrum.


How do tears of the labrum occur?

There are primarily three different ways in which you can tear your labrum. These are:


Through age-related wear and tear. As we get older, various parts of our body start to deteriorate and our joints are no exception. Over time, your labrum becomes so well used that damage is virtually unavoidable. Patients over the age of 40 are more likely to suffer from torn labrums that their younger counterparts.


Through injury. Slips, falls, and other types of injury are surprisingly common. When we fall, we subconsciously stretch out our arms to try and break our fall and stop ourselves from being too badly injured. Unfortunately, in many cases, we simply end up hurting another part of our body – in some cases, patients might sustain a traumatic injury to his or her labrum. Labrum tears also often occur as a result of car accidents and shoulder dislocations.

Repetitive strain. Repetitive strain injuries can affect all parts of our body, and if you work or participate in a recreational activity that involves repeated shoulder movements, you are more likely to suffer from a torn labrum.


Symptoms of a torn labrum

Fortunately, the symptoms of a torn labrum are fairly obvious since most of them involve pain or an inability to use your arm or shoulder as you would normally. Some of the most common symptoms of a torn labrum are as follows:


  • A deep ache inside the shoulder. This is definitely a chronic, ache-type pain as opposed to anything sharp or tingling. Depending on where in the labrum the tear is, you may feel pain in the back or the front of your shoulder too.

  • Discomfort when trying to perform tasks requiring an overhead motion. Whether it is holding a dryer over your hair or serving a tennis ball, if you are experiencing pain when you lift your arms over your head you may well have a torn labrum.

  • Sounds emanating from your shoulder. It may sound scary, but it is not uncommon for patients with a labrum tear to hear unusual sounds coming from their shoulder. These can include clicking, grinding and even popping sounds.

  • Weakness in the joint. Patients with a torn labrum often experience weakness in their shoulder that can make day to day tasks difficult.

Treatment for a torn labrum in the shoulder

If you have experienced a torn labrum you will be pleased to know that you have a variety of different treatment options available to you. Which is right for you will depend on your individual case and we will be able to make a recommendation. However, surgical intervention is usually a last resort, and we will normally suggest that you try the available non-surgical treatments first.


Physical therapy

The most common treatment and primary thing that we will recommend is a course of physical therapy. Contrary to popular belief this doesn’t only refer to the manipulation of the joint but also involves therapies to help manage your pain while the tear heals.

Hot/cold packs, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories and even electrical stimulation in the form of a TENS machine may all be suggested. In addition to these, we will also show you a number of exercises that you can do which will help strengthen the shoulder muscles and promote healing.

In addition to physical therapy, we will speak to you about the benefits of different forms of pain relief, and in particular, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories.


Labrum tear surgery

If physical therapy and pain relief are proving to be ineffective and the tear doesn’t seem to be healing, your doctor may recommend that you consider surgery. This is usually performed arthroscopically meaning that it is a minimally invasive procedure.


The surgery itself will be carried out using special tools inserted inside your shoulder, one with a camera on the end linked to a screen in the room which enables our surgeon to see what he is doing. The tear can be repaired simply, although it still may a number of months for the wound to heal properly and for you to regain strength in your shoulder.



If you have a torn labrum in your shoulder and are seeking treatment, or if you suspect that you may have sustained this injury and would like it confirmed, call New York Spine & Sports Surgery today to learn more at (516) 289-9300.