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Labral Tears (Shoulder)

Updated: Feb 20, 2022

Most of us have probably heard of muscle cramps, sprains, and strains, but did you know that muscles tear too? Today, we will be talking about labral tears in the shoulder and how you can help treat the condition using physical therapy exercises. Now, the shoulder joint has cartilage called the labrum. The shoulder is connected to the arm through a ball-and-joint socket. The labrum is the tissue lining in the shoulder socket. The joint has two types of cartilage, the articular cartilage and the labrum. It is the type of cartilage in the shoulder that is more rigid and fibrous than the articular type.


The labrum functions by stablizing the joint. It deepens the socket, which keeps the ball of the humerus bone firmly in place. If the labrum is torn, the shoulder can become dislocated. Injuries occur when the ball of the humerus bone slides partly away from the socket, which is called a subluxation. If the bone totally detaches from the socket, the shoulder will likely dislocate.


If the labrum tears and is not given a chance to heal properly, it may not revert back to the right position. If the tear happens at the front of the shoulder, it is referred to as a bankart tear. When the tear occurs at the back of the shoulder, it is referred to as a reverse Bankart tear. If a bankart tear doesn’t heal properly, you might experience shoulder instability, weakness or dislocations.


One of the symptoms of labral tear, though relatively rare, is hearing a slight popping or clicking noise when you try moving your arm. You may also notice a restriction in movement at the joint. Magnetic Resonance Imaging machines (MRI) and CAT scan machines are usually used in helping diagnose a labrum tear. The accuracy rate of these machines is about 80 to 85% in diagnosing a subluxation or dislocation. A conclusive diagnosis is made in conjunction with the patient’s medical history and physical examination.


In instances where the labrum has a large tear, it can be trimmed, cut out, or repaired, depending on the area of the shoulder which is affected. Arthroscopic surgery is also an option which will reattach the labrum to the socket’s rim.


Post-surgery healing will take about four to six weeks. After the healing process is complete, physical therapy exercises can be implemented to help regain strength, flexibility and normal functionality to the joint. We will now consider a few different types of physical therapy exercises that will aid in the rehabilitation of a recovering shoulder.


Cupping therapy


This is a form of alternative medicine that can address the pain, reduce inflammation, and trigger normal blood flow. Similar to a deep tissue massage, it is proven to treat chronic shoulder issues by increasing vasodilation and blood circulation, and loosening constricted blood vessels.


Kettle Bell Press and Resistance Band Exercises

Combining these two exercises will definitely aid in strengthening your shoulders. They promote strength building, flexibility, endurance, and balance which is exactly what your shoulder is needing after being inactive during the healing process.

Lacrosse Ball Exercises

Using hard and dense lacrosse balls can massage the shoulder area by gradually increasing the motion range of the joint, as well as improving muscle performance. At the same time, lacrosse ball exercises can also serve as a soothing massage for sore or tired shoulder muscles.


At Arise Physical Therapy, we regularly help our patients with all types of injuries including shoulder injuries. We typically do this by creating a customised program for each client and teaching them specific exercises that target the affected area of their injury. We have journeyed with many of our clients to full recovery and seen them return back to their favourite sports and lifestyle activities. If you have been suffering from any pain or discomfort and believe something may be wrong, then please do not hesitate to get in touch and one of our friendly team members will assess you.


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