The labrum, a type of cartilage, surrounds the outside of the shoulder joint. Acting like an O-ring, the labrum helps stabilize the shoulder joint by deepening the joint socket, resulting in enhanced flexibility and range of motion. A tear in the labrum can occur in conjunction with a shoulder or arm injury.
Cause of injury
Labrum tears can be caused by: dislocating the shoulder, falling onto the arm, forced movement of the arm or shoulder, lifting a heavy object or repetitive use of the shoulder in sports high velocity and/or overhead movement (i.e.: throwing a ball or serving in tennis).
Signs and Symptoms
The most common symptom of a labral tear is pain in the shoulder, particularly when engaging in overhead activities. Individuals may experience popping or clicking in the shoulder. For many, the shoulder lacks strength and often leads to feeling as though the shoulder is falling out of place.
A torn labrum may be overlooked initially, mistaken for impingement syndrome or tendonitis. A physician or therapist will assess the shoulder for pain, tenderness, loss of motion, and/or joint looseness. An X-ray or MRI may be ordered to reveal any fractures or to provide a clearer look at the labrum and other shoulder structures.
Treatment varies depending on the severity of the injury. Treatment may include icing, anti-inflammatory medication, rehabilitation exercises, or surgical intervention to fix the labrum and/or surrounding structures. Regardless of initial treatment, proper rehabilitation is essential for return to normal function. A therapist can guide rehabilitation to ensure 100% return to activity as safely and quickly as possible. Therapy initially focuses on decreasing pain/swelling and increasing range of motion. Later stages of therapy shift toward strengthening and return to normal function.
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