Labral tears of the shoulder are often caused by trauma or excessive repetitive motion, resulting in pain, instability, weakness and limited range of motion.

The shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint. The labrum is a rubbery cartilage that surrounds and cushions the shoulder socket, adding stability, reducing friction, and connecting tendons to the shoulder joint.

Certain work or sports activities can cause the labrum to tear. Tears can occur from repetitive throwing, forceful lifting, falling directly onto an outstretched arm, and participating in sports such as baseball and tennis that frequently require the arm to be in overhead positions. The labrum may also fray and tear as it becomes more brittle as we age.

Symptoms of a labral tear depend on where it is torn and may include:

  • Pain, especially when moving the arm overhead or throwing a ball
  • Sharp pop or catching sensation
  • A feeling of weakness or looseness
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Rotator cuff weakness

To accurately diagnose a labral tear, a shoulder specialist at Lancaster Orthopedic Group may need to look into the shoulder with an arthroscope. The labrum is deep inside the shoulder; inserting this small camera into the shoulder joint enables the physician to see pictures of it on a TV screen and determine if there is a tear.

Most labral tears do not require surgery. Conservative treatment includes rest, anti-inflammatory medication, and physical therapy. If the symptoms persist, however, your physician may suggest surgery to repair the labrum and stabilize the shoulder joint.