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What is a Shoulder Joint Tear / Glenoid Labrum Tear?

Two joints in the body have what is called a labrum. The shoulder is one of these joints. The shoulder (glenohumeral joint) is a ball and socket joint. The shoulder blade bone (scapula) extends up to the top of the shoulder ending in what is known as the glenoid cavity, or the socket. At the top end of the upper arm bone, the humerus, is the humeral head which is shaped like a ball. The humeral head fits nicely into the glenoid cavity socket.


The glenoid cavity serves as the part of the shoulder that the humeral head fits into. In order to help the head of the humerus fit into the socket even better, the glenoid cavity has a labrum around its edges in order to make this socket deeper. The labrum is a soft ring of tissue that goes around the edge of the socket, in effect deepening the socket. The head of the humerus moves more easily with protection from the labrum. Like the rest of connective tissues in our bodies, the labrum is vulnerable to tears and injury. For the shoulder, tears of the labrum can lead to chronic aches and pain and impaired function. With a labrum tear of the shoulder, you may hear the terms glenoid labrum tear or just labral tear. There are multiple types of a labral tear in the shoulder. These are:

  • SLAP tear: This stands for Superior Labrum Anterior to Posterior. This type of tear is at the top, front of the labrum and torn from front to back. There will usually be biceps brachii involvement with this type of tear.
  • Bankart Lesion: Usually a tear of the labrum as a result of dislocation of the shoulder
  • Posterior instability: back portion of the labrum is torn
  • Anterior instability: front portion of the labrum is torn

What Causes a Shoulder Joint Tear?

The causes of a tear to the labrum of the shoulder are generally from overuse, although trauma can certainly cause a labral tear. Some causes are:

  • Direct blow to the shoulder
  • Excessive use of the shoulder, particularly overhead motion
  • High energy, quick movements usually overhead commonly cause SLAP tears in athletes
  • Fall on outstretched hand (FOOSH injury)
  • Heavy lifting
medically accurate anatomy illustration - shoulder muscles

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What are Shoulder Joint Tear Symptoms?

Symptoms of a labral tear include:

  • Pain
  • A ‘popping’ sound or grinding sensation when attempting to move the shoulder
  • Catching or locking feeling when moving the shoulder
  • Decreased strength and range of motion of the shoulder joint
  • A feeling of instability in the shoulder
If You Are Experiencing Symptoms, Schedule an Appointment with Dr. Burke Orthopedics Immediately.
Woman with shoulder pain. Young woman with pain in shoulder. Suffering from pain in shoulder of woman.

Shoulder Joint Tear Treatment

Surgical intervention is not usually indicated in the case of a glenoid labrum tear unless it is severe and significantly affecting your function. Non-surgical measures to take consist of:

  • Rest
  • Over the counter pain medications
  • Physical therapy in order to strengthen the surrounding musculature
  • Cortisone injections

If conservative measures fail to reduce pain, and especially if other structures are involved, surgery may be necessary using sutures and anchors in order to secure the labrum back onto the socket.

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Disclaimer: Please note all medical information contained within this website should never be interpreted as a diagnosis or recommendation of treatment. If a diagnosis is needed, contact Dr. Burke Orthopedics for a personalized consultation. Information shared in testimonials and reviews are specific to that particular patient and may not be representative of the experience of others.