Q:

What is a superior labral tear?

A:

Quick Answer

A superior labral tear, also known as a shoulder SLAP tear, occurs when the labrum, a ring of tissue around the shoulder that keeps the arm in the socket, tears. The injury usually occurs either from a fall on the shoulder or from overuse.

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Full Answer

The symptoms of a labral tear involves pain in the shoulder as well as difficulty using the shoulder and may involve weakness or popping. The pain is often aching and generalized, meaning people have difficulty pinpointing its origin point. However, a SLAP tear typically means there are associated injuries, such as a rotator cuff tear, and symptoms from those injuries may be more specific.

Because shoulder pain can result from such a wide array of injuries and diseases, a SLAP tear can be difficult to diagnose. Tests are usually required to pinpoint which movements cause pain and where the shoulder pain originates from. An MRI may also be required. However, the only way to be completely certain about a labral tear is through anthroscopic surgery, during which a surgeon uses a tiny camera to locate cuts and tears on the tissue itself, possibly repairing it simultaneously.

Other than surgery, medication and certain rehab techniques, such as heating and icing, as well as physical therapy can help with the pain. However, surgery may be the only solution for some.

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