Shoulder Labral Issues

In the simplest terms, the shoulder is a ball and socket joint where the arm bone attaches to the collar bone. Because the socket is so shallow, a cuff of cartilage called the labrum exists to help stabilize the joint and hold the bones in place. This layer of cartilage deepens the socket and helps make the shoulder a very mobile joint. In fact, the range of motion exhibited by the shoulder is much greater than any other joint in the human body. However, the thick tissue that makes up the labrum is prone to injury. Many shoulder injuries—especially those involving trauma—result in labral tears. The labrum also weakens with age, becoming more susceptible to fraying and tears. Symptoms of a labral tear include an aching pain in the shoulder joint, a “catching” sensation with shoulder motion, and heightened pain with certain activities and movements. The most common types of labral tears are SLAP tears (which occur at the top of the shoulder socket), Bankart tears (which occur in conjunction with shoulder dislocations), and posterior labral tears (which occur when the rotator cuff and labrum become pinched together at the back of the shoulder). Treatment of labral issues depend on the type and extent of injury and may involve the administration of anti-inflammatory medications, cortisone injections, and participation in a physical therapy program. Most labral tears and conditions do not require surgery.