At the base of your shoulder joint there exists a ring of cartilage that helps support movement in the area. This is known as the glenoid labrum, and if a tear or damage occurs in the area, it’s referred to as a labral tear or a torn labrum. In today’s blog, we examine why labral tears occur and detail how physical therapy can help you recover following one of these injuries.
Labrum Tear Causes
Labral tears are a common injury in sports that involve a lot of stress on the shoulder joint. Both baseball and football players are at heightened risk compared to the general public because of the repetitive stress that is put on the shoulder joint when throwing a ball or being tackled onto the ground. This is especially true in pitchers who put a lot of stress on their shoulder joint with every pitch they throw. That said, athletes aren’t the only subset of individuals who are suffering labral tears. We also see them more frequently in manual laborers who work with heavy machinery or are tasked with performing repetitive lifts throughout the day. Finally, we also see them in patients who suffered a fall or similar high-impact injury.
The actual mechanism involves an overstress of the glenoid labrum. Stress or trauma results in disruption, damage, fraying or tearing of this supportive ring. When this happens, the shoulder joint can become unstable and leave you with a range of symptoms including:
- Shoulder pain
- Limited range of motion
- Difficulty lifting your shoulder
- Increased likelihood of shoulder dislocation
Treating Labral Tears With Physical Therapy
If you have been diagnosed with a labral tear, expect to be referred to a physical therapist. Physical therapy is the most common form of treatment for a labral tear because we need to help this cartilage area heal so it can help to stabilize the shoulder joint, and oftentimes the healing process can be aided with targeted strength training exercises. Controlled movements and targeted exercises help this cartilage recover and support the shoulder joint that sits above it. Physical therapy will also help by:
- Helping control and reduce pain, as a torn labrum can be quite painful.
- Increasing range of motion in the shoulder.
- Prevent you from doing more harm than good by carefully monitoring your movements and exercises to ensure thorough strengthening of the area without overdoing it.
- Improve your natural proprioception (body’s ability to recognize where it is in space).
- Providing a safe return-to-sport or return-to-work care plan based on your individual needs.
The majority of labral tears respond well to physical therapy and other conservative modalities, and most patients return to normal activities within 6-8 weeks. So if you’ve been diagnosed with a labral tear or have been battling shoulder discomfort for some time, set up an appointment with a physical therapist at OrthoRehab Specialists to let us help you get back to a pain free way of living.