All things mechanical eventually deteriorate. And, the joints of the body are no exception. In particular, the ball-and-socket joint of the shoulder is especially susceptible to injury as the joint is shallow by nature. This means that the joint has a fair degree of instability, which makes it prone to dislocation. There is, however, a structure within this system that helps to correct the problem: your labrum.
For context, your shoulder is comprised of three major bones: the shoulder blade, the humerus, and the collarbone. These structures work together via the ball-and-socket joint, which connects to the rest of the torso. The labrum that exists within the shoulders and the hips is not actually a bone itself. Instead, it is a circular rim of cartilage that forms at the end of the humerus. This soft tissue acts as a natural cushion in between the bones that compose the ball-and-socket joint of the shoulder. If the labrum tears, this increases the amount of friction that the joint exerts, resulting in uncomfortable symptoms.
There are multiple ways that a labrum might tear. A SLAP tear, which stands for superior labrum anterior and posterior, refers to a specific type of injury to this structure within the shoulder joint. To break down this medical vernacular, a SLAP tear refers to an injury where the labrum tears at the upper front and back of where it links to the tendons of the biceps.
Generally speaking, there are three ways for a patient to succumb to a SLAP tear injury:
Find your condition with our 2-minute Condition Checker.
Generally speaking, it is not exactly an easy feat to isolate the symptoms of a SLAP tear, unless the biceps tendon is affected. That being said, the most common symptoms for a SLAP tear is shoulder pain that is accompanied with a catching or locking sensation. In most cases, a SLAP tear does not hurt constantly (although sometimes it does). Instead, the pain usually occurs when the patient uses the shoulder in some type of activity, especially when it comes to lifting objects above head level. Usually, this pain occurs deep within the shoulder or toward the back of the joint. In more serious cases, patients may also experience loss of strength, loss of range of motion, and general instability in the shoulder.
To diagnose a SLAP tear, your doctor will generally begin with your medical history and a physical examination. Medical histories are always important for any diagnosis, as they provide useful information about pre-existing medical conditions, family history, and genetic predispositions. It is important to combine these elements with a physical examination, as there is no specific test in modern medicine that allows for a perfectly accurate SLAP tear diagnosis. That being said, the most common tests doctors perform are:
Discover which treatment options are right for you with our Treatment Finder.
Generally speaking, there are two types of treatments for any medical condition: conservative methods and surgical procedures. Usually, doctors will exhaust all conservative options first before opting for surgery. In the event that conservative methods don’t work, then surgery is put on the table.
For conservative SLAP tear treatment, doctors will prescribe NSAIDs to help reduce any pain and inflammation the patient might have. In cases where the patient has a loss of strength or reduced range of motion, physical therapy is highly effective. Certain exercises will help strengthen the strong connective tissue that encapsulates the joint. To find out what exercises are right for you, speak with your doctor or physical therapist.
If conservative options do not work out for the patient, then the doctor will recommend surgery. Usually, the performing surgeon will employ arthroscopic surgical techniques to treat a SLAP tear. This involves the use of a small camera that the surgeon inserts inside the shoulder joint for guidance during the procedure. This provides the surgeon with images of structures inside the shoulder in real time to help them guide their specialized implements. Thankfully, the instruments that doctors use for this procedure are quite thin, so there are minimally invasive iterations of this type of surgery. This means that the surgeon will be able to get away with using smaller incisions, which in turn means less scarring, pain, and a faster recovery time for the patient.
After a SLAP tear surgery, the vast majority of patients find that their shoulder strength improves and their pain dissipates. Recovery depends on the severity of the condition, as some cases are too serious for minimally invasive procedures to be a viable option.
If you are experiencing shoulder pain that does not get better with time, please consider contacting NJ Spine and Orthopedics at (855) 586-2615. Our doctors are leading experts in both conservative treatment care plans and minimally invasive surgical procedures. We are dedicated to providing all of our patients with an experience that promotes faster recovery times so that you can return to a state of normalcy as soon as humanly possible. Just know that you do not have to suffer from these symptoms forever. Contact us today!
Determine your eligibility with our Candidacy Verification.