Glenoid Labrum Tear

An injury that might have gone unnoticed a couple of decades ago, a glenoid labrum tear is a small tear that occurs inside the shoulder joint, hidden beneath layers of bone and tissue.

Glenoid Labrum Tear Anatomy

The shoulder is comprised of three bones: the shoulder blade, collarbone, and the humerus, the upper arm bone. 

The head of the upper arm bone sits inside a socket in the scapula called the glenoid. This socket is typically very shallow, and smaller than the humeral head. For this reason, the rim of the socket is lined with soft, fibrous tissue known as the labrum. The labrum clings to the head of the humerus, stabilizing it inside the socket. It also serves as an attachment site for several ligaments.

Glenoid Labrum Tear Causes

Injuries to this tissue inside the shoulder joint are usually caused by traumatic injuries to the shoulder, or repetitive shoulder motions. Weightlifters or athletes who engage in repeated throwing, such as baseball pitchers, can experience glenoid labrum tears.

Some examples of injuries that can damage the glenoid labrum include:

  • Falling on an outstretched arm
  • A violent overhead reach, such as attempting to break a fall
  • A sudden pull, such as lifting a heavy object
  • A direct blow to the shoulder

Glenoid Labrum Tear Symptoms 

If you experience a glenoid labrum tear, the symptoms can appear very similarly to other injuries in the shoulder. Some common symptoms include:

  • Frequent shoulder dislocations
  • Pain with overhead motion
  • Catching, locking, popping, or grinding with arm motion
  • Pain at night or with daily activities
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Loss of strength
  • A sense of instability in the shoulder

Glenoid Labrum Tear Diagnosis

Your doctor will perform a physical examination of your shoulder, as well as take a history of the injury. The examination will include several tests to determine range of motion, stability, and level of pain. 

X-rays may be requested to rule out other causes for shoulder pain, but because the labrum is soft tissue, X-rays will not reveal any damage to it. Your doctor may order a CT scan, or an MRI. These are usually only used to confirm the diagnosis, which will be made with arthroscopic surgery: a small camera inserted into the affected area.

Tears can be located at the top (superior) or bottom (inferior) of the glenoid socket. 

Glenoid labrum tears also typically occur in conjunction with other shoulder injuries like shoulder dislocations, or biceps tendon tears.

Glenoid Labrum Tear Treatment

Nonsurgical methods are the most common treatment for a glenoid labrum tear. Anti-inflammatory medications can be prescribed to manage pain and swelling. Nonsurgical treatments will generally include managing pain and resting while the injury heals itself.

If nonsurgical treatments are not successful, surgery may be required. In most cases, the surgeon can arthrtoscopically remove the torn flap of tissue, meaning a small camera will guide the surgical tools. 

However, occasionally more invasive procedures are necessary, especially if the shoulder becomes unstable. This can happen if the tear extends into the biceps tendon. The tendon will have to be stabilized with screws or pins before the torn flap in the labrum is removed.

Inferior tears, or tears below the middle of the socket, can also result in shoulder instability. In this case, a surgeon will reattach any torn ligaments and fold over and “pleat” the tissues, tightening the shoulder socket.

Glenoid Labrum Tear Recovery

If you undergo any surgery, the affected shoulder will likely need to be kept in a sling for 3 to 6 weeks. Exercises will probably be necessary once the sling is removed to regain full range of motion and strength in the arm. 

Athletes can usually begin training for their specific sport again 12 weeks after surgery, but it will very likely be 4 to 6 months before the shoulder is fully healed.

At SPORT, we will identify the source of your pain and then utilize state-of-the-art therapeutic techniques that focus on restoring your range of motion.

Depending on the specific condition and its severity, these treatment options may include physical therapy, over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication, slings and supports, cortisone shots, or shoulder or elbow surgery.

If you have an acute or chronic shoulder or elbow injury that needs medical attention, call SPORT at (469) 200-28322 to arrange a consultation or you can request one online. Hurt today? We can arrange a same-day urgent care visit to ensure you get fast, effective relief.

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