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Labral Tear

What is the labrum?

labral tear

This side view of the scapula (shoulder blade) with the humerus removed shows the oval glenoid (shoulder socket) surrounded by a white ring of fibrocartilage - the labrum.

The labrum is a ring of fibrocartilage that surrounds the rim of the glenoid (socket) in the shoulder. It functions to deepen the socket and help stabilize the joint.

What causes a labral tear?

The most common cause of a labral tear is a shoulder dislocation or a more subtle kind of shoulder instability. This can lead to tearing of the labrum in either the front, back, or top of the socket. Labral tears that occur at the top of the socket are known as SLAP tears and are discussed separately. When the labrum tears, it pulls away from the underlying socket and is rendered non-functional.

The labrum may also deteriorate or tear in shoulder arthritis. This sort of labral tearing is not associated with shoulder instability. Rather, it is simply related to "wear and tear" in the joint.

What are the symptoms of a labral tear?

Labral tears can cause shoulder pain and additional instability. The pain is felt in the shoulder region, but is often difficult to localize precisely. Associated instability may feel like painful clicking or clunking in the shoulder or may involve true shoulder dislocation.

What is the treatment for a labral tear?

Symptoms associated with labral tears may improve rest, physical therapy, and activity modification. If this fails to provide adequate relief, arthroscopic labral repair is the treatment of choice.