glenoid labrum tearThe glenoid labrum is cartilage and connective tissue that is found in the shoulder and the hip joint. If you are experiencing shoulder instability, it’s possible that you are suffering from a glenoid labrum tear. Common causes of a labral tear include shoulder injuries from car accidents, falls, heavy lifting that puts excess strain on shoulders, poor posture while bending or standing, and weakness in shoulder muscles due to joint problems or poor bone health. Some of the symptoms include shoulder pain, discomfort, and inability to move the shoulder and arm properly.

Symptoms

The symptoms of a shoulder labral tear are very similar to that of a Rotator cuff tear, but may localize in a slightly different portion of the shoulder, and the effects may also be different. The visible symptoms are:

  • A numbing and diffused pain in the posterior portion of the shoulder
  • Varied shoulder movements cause some popping or clicking sounds
  • Stiffness of the shoulder joints
  • Shoulder strength weakening
  • Feelings of a shoulder dislocation

Causes and Types

The types of tears that can be medically diagnosed can be classified into two categories:

Traumatic labral tears: these tears are mainly the result of an incident of shoulder dislocation, or any injury from the heavy lifting. Athletes, weight lifters, gymnasts and even construction workers can be at risk of this type of injury.

Non-traumatic labral tears: this type of tear is mainly due to weakening or the instability of the shoulder joint. The tear mainly occurs when increased strenuous activity is experienced by the already weak muscle or joint. The shoulder joints are comparatively more mobile than the traumatic tears.

Diagnosis

Not all labral tears are severe, some go unnoticed. It has been seen that the injury can even heal on its own, if suitable care is taken, and the injured area is not put under any further stress. One of the main reasons for improper healing is the lack of blood supply due to the injured portion of the shoulder. The continuous strain to an already injured shoulder can simply worsen the situation.

If the pain seems to be sustainable and prolonged, even after taking pain killers, it is highly recommended to consult a doctor for the situation before it gets worse. The first thing the orthopaedic surgeon will do is examine the patient’s previous medical history and then further administer the examination to test the condition of the area of the glenoid labrum. The tests that are performed involve moving the shoulder, which results in a popping or clicking of the shoulder joints. This is then used to determine whether the shoulder of the patient is stable or not.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging or otherwise known as MRI is also done. Labral tears can even be diagnosed with certainty without any arthroscopic surgery.

Treatment

The doctor tends to prescribe anti-inflammatory medications until the proper diagnosis of the condition can be made. The types of treatment may include non-surgical as well as surgical methods, if the condition becomes worse. The physician may reattach the ligament and thereby strengthen the shoulder socket with the simultaneous folding and pleating of the tissues in the adjoining areas.

Some of the types of treatments are:

Non-surgical treatments:

One of the most important non-surgical treatments that are suggested are physical therapy and exercises. It is very important to choose the best professionals for the physical therapy since improper treatment will not only delay the process of healing, but can also make the situation worse than before.

When the physical pain is minor and not prolonged, the doctors tend to suggest treatment that includes several exercises and body movements to repair the damaged tissues.

Some of the types of exercises are:

Strengthening exercises: Improvements to the strength of the muscle is one of the first aims of the treatment. The physical therapist tends to suggest some strengthening exercises, which includes external rotation and internal rotation exercises that mainly helps in repairing and healing the muscles of the shoulder blades and also the shoulder joints.

Stretching Exercises: Stretching exercises help in restoring the normal balance and flexibility of the muscles that surround the injured area, to aid them and work more efficiently.

Wall walk-up: The Wall walk-up is one of the most recommended exercises for a labrum tear. The procedure includes standing near a door, and then grabbing onto the wall frame. The patients needs to walk up the frame as much as they can bear while using their fingers for aid and then count up to ten and repeat the same for three more times.

Shoulder flexion: In this exercise, the patient needs to be seated on a chair, with their backs straight, and then carefully raise their injured arm above the head. Make sure that their elbows are straight and then leave the arm for a few seconds. Repeat for a few more times, making sure that extra strain is not applied.

Surgical treatments

When the pain fails to subside with the non-surgical treatments, the physician tends to suggest an arthroscopic surgery as the last resort. In this type of surgery, a tube-like instrument, known as an arthroscope, is inserted into the joint by making a small incision in order to view and further repair the injury. The success rates of these types of surgery has been quite high and have been every effective in healing any labral tear or any dislocation of the shoulder joints. 

Read more on labrum surgery.