A Labral tear can result from an unstable shoulder joint. Labral is the ring of cartilage that surrounds the base of the shoulder joint. Labral injuries are common, often leading to extreme pain, and could make it challenging to move your arm. The leading causes of Labral tear include repetitive work activities, falls, or sports that require the player to use their arms raised above their heads.

In most cases, labral tears are managed with physical therapy. However, the patient could undergo surgery to fix the torn labrum in extreme cases. At Suarez Physical Therapy, we improve our patients' quality of life by providing hands-on care, prescribed movement, and patient education. We invite you to contact one of our physical therapists directly for an evaluation.

Understanding A Shoulder Labral Tear

The shoulder contains a ring of cartilage known as the glenoid labrum, which offers extra support for the shoulder joint. This ring of cartilage helps keep the shoulder joint in place. A labral tear happens when part of this ring is torn, frayed, or disrupted. A shoulder labral tear could lead to an unstable shoulder joint, shoulder pain, and in extreme cases, a shoulder dislocation. On the other hand, a shoulder dislocation could result in labral tears.

The shoulder joint is more like a golf ball (the humerus or the head of the upper arm bone) resting on the golf tee (the socket or the shallow cavity located on the scapula or shoulder bone, commonly known as the glenoid fossa). The labrum offers a rim for the socket, ensuring that the humerus stays in place and doesn’t fall off easily. It is challenging for the humerus to remain in place if the labrum is torn. This makes the shoulder joint prone to injury or unstable.

A labral tear can occur when you strain the biceps muscles since the bicep tendon attaches to the shoulder blade through the labrum. For instance, you can put an extra strain on the bicep muscles when you throw a ball. In addition, compressing or pinching the shoulder joint, especially when you raise your arms above your head, could also cause labral tears.

Types of Labral Tears

There are mainly two types of tears:

  • Traumatic labral tears

  • Non-traumatic labral tears

A traumatic labral tear results from a single incident like an injury caused by lifting heavy objects or a dislocation; people who often use their arms over their heads are more prone to traumatic labral tears. These people include construction workers, gymnasts, and weight lifters. A traumatic labral tear could also result from activities that involve force application at a distance from the shoulder joint. These activities include swinging a racquet or striking a hammer. You could also suffer a traumatic labral tear if you fall on an outstretched arm.

A non-traumatic labral tear usually occurs due to shoulder joint instability or muscle weakness. When the muscles that stabilize and support the shoulder joint are weak, more stress is exerted on the labrum, causing a labrum tear. People who often develop non-traumatic labral tears tend to have greater mobility or more looseness throughout their joints, which is a leading cause of tears.

The Symptoms of A Shoulder Labral Tear

How does a shoulder labral tear feel, or how can you tell that you have suffered a shoulder labral tear? Some of the leading symptoms of a tear are:

  • Experiencing pain on your shoulder

  • Clanking, popping, or catching every time you move your shoulder. Because the torn labrum has loose ends, these ends flip and roll within the shoulder joint every time you move your arm. The loose ends could even be trapped between your upper arm and the shoulder.

  • You might constantly experience shoulder weakness, especially on one side.

  • Another common feeling is a sensation that your shoulder joint will pop out of place.

Diagnosis of A Labral Tear

In some cases, a shoulder labral tear might not cause any symptoms. You can function without any symptoms, especially when the tears are small. However, there is no adequate blood flow to the torn labrum, which could delay healing. A shoulder with a torn labrum could click or pop without any pain. However, as the labral tear progresses, you might experience shoulder pain and weakness.

If a physical therapist suspects that a patient has a labral tear, they will review their health history. The therapist will also evaluate and assess the condition of the glenoid labrum. The tests involve placing the shoulder in positions that could recreate some symptoms like clicking, popping, or mild pain. This will help the physical therapist determine if the shoulder joint is unstable. The therapist could recommend an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging to complete the diagnosis). It can be challenging to diagnose a labral tear without arthroscopic surgery in some cases. If necessary, your physical therapist will consult with an orthopedic surgeon.

The recovery period of a torn shoulder labrum will vary depending on the following factors:

  • The severity of the tear

  • The location of the tear

  • Whether surgery is necessary

  • Whether the shoulder surgery is open or keyhole

In case of surgery, it will take several weeks to recover; the incisions could take several days to heal. If you undergo surgery, your doctor will advise you to wear a sling for a certain period following the surgery, usually for the first four weeks after the procedure. You should avoid using your shoulder during the recovery period as much as possible. A torn shoulder labrum often results from shoulder overuse or a blunt force trauma on the shoulder. If you are an athlete or a sports person, you should take a break from playing any sports. People who undergo arthroscopic surgery for a torn Labral often experience less pain and a quicker recovery than people who undergo open shoulder surgery.

How A Physical Therapist Can Help You

Labral tears are usually treated with physical therapy, especially when the tears are minor and do not cause shoulder instability. The physical therapist will educate the patient about the activities and positions to avoid. The therapist will also tailor an appropriate recovery plan for the patient. The treatment for a labral tear include:

Manual Therapy

Applying gentle hands-on (manual) therapy helps reduce pain and restore movement within the shoulder joint.

Strengthening Exercises

Strengthening exercises help to improve the strength of the shoulder muscles. It allows better healing and reduces the stress exerted on the torn labrum. The physical therapist will perform several rotation exercises that target the shoulder joint muscles and the scapular (shoulder blade). These exercises will help provide stability to the shoulder joint.

Stretching Exercises

A decrease in flexibility or imbalance in the shoulder muscles could lead to excessive stress within the shoulder joint and poor posture. Your physical therapist will recommend stretching exercises like stretching the pectoralis (chest) muscles to improve the functionality of the muscles that surround the shoulder. The physical therapist will also introduce thoracic (middle back) stretches that enable your body to twist or rotate to the side. This way, your shoulder joint doesn’t have to overstretch when performing tasks like swinging a golf club or racquet.

Postural Assessment And Exercises

Your physical therapist will also assess your posture and teach you certain exercises to position your shoulders properly as you perform your daily tasks. For example, a rounded shoulder and a forward-head posture put your shoulder at risk of injury.

Patient Education

Patient education is also an essential part of physical therapy. The physical therapist will first help the patient understand their injury and its cause. The therapist will also help the patient understand the importance of modifying their activities. Patient education also involves helping a patient to understand the importance of doing exercises to reduce the risk of future injuries.

Home Treatment Program

In addition to the treatment provided at the physical therapy clinic, your physical therapist will recommend a home exercise program. The therapist will identify various strengthening and stretching exercises to help steadily improve your shoulder function, meet both your work and home goals and other activity goals.

When Surgery Is Necessary

In extreme situations, conservative treatments might not be adequate to relieve the symptoms of a labral tear. In these cases, surgery will be necessary to re-attach the torn labrum.

After surgery, the physical therapist will design an appropriate treatment program based on a patient's specific needs and goals. The therapist will work with the patient to help them heal and return to their daily routine.

A surgically repaired Labrum will take between nine months and twelve months for the shoulder to completely heal. Immediately after surgery, the physical therapist will teach the patient how to avoid putting excessive strain or stress on the repaired labrum. Then, the physical therapist will introduce strengthening and resistance exercises as the labrum continues to heal. These exercises will be tailored to meet a patient's specific needs and help the patient slowly and safely return to engaging in their daily tasks that need force or lifting.

Physical therapists are trained to gradually introduce movements safely to allow patients to return to their normal activities without causing further injuries to the repaired tissues.

How To Prevent Labral Tears

The leading cause of labral tear is forceful activities performed with the arms raised overhead. You can avoid putting excessive stress on your labrum by developing strength in your muscles surrounding the shoulder and the scapula. Your physical therapist will do the following to help prevent labral tear:

  • Create exercises aimed at helping the patient strengthen their shoulders and the shoulder blade muscles.

  • Showing a patient how to avoid a potentially harmful position

  • Training you how to control your shoulder movement properly or modify your activities to reduce the risk of suffering a shoulder injury or labral tear.

  • Provide the necessary patient education to ensure that the patient doesn’t place unnecessary force on the shoulder

  • Helping the patient to engage in exercises and activities that will improve the middle-back and shoulder flexibility

Choosing The Right Physical Therapist

Physical therapists have ample training through education and experience to help them treat patients with labral tears. However, when choosing a physical therapist, you might want to consider the following factors:

  • Ensure that you choose a physical therapist with experience handling patients with musculoskeletal disorders. It would even be better to go for a therapist with practice with an orthopedic focus.

  • Go for a board-certified physical therapist or a therapist who has completed a fellowship or residency in orthopedic physical therapy.

These physical therapists will have advanced knowledge, skills, and hands-on experience that will greatly benefit your situation. You can use the online tool built by the American Physical Therapy Association to find the right physical therapist. This tool, commonly known as Find a PT, makes it easy to search for a physical therapist with the clinical expertise you need. The online tool also makes it easy to find a physical therapist within your geographical area. Below are some of the tips you can use when finding a reliable physical therapist in your area:

  • Ask for recommendations from your relatives, friends, or your healthcare provider.

  • Whenever you contact a physical therapy clinic for assistance, you should ensure that you ask about the physical therapist’s experience in helping people who suffer labral tears.

  • During your first appointment with the physical therapist, ensure that you describe all your symptoms in detail to give the therapist a clear picture of what you are going through. In addition, you should ensure that you inform the therapist about what makes your pain or symptoms worse.

Benefits of Treating Labral Tears With A Physical Therapy

Driving your car to work, raising your arm to ask a question, playing catch with your children. These are a few scenarios where labral tear and shoulder pain can make your day more difficult. Many people are familiar with dealing with shoulder pain and discomfort. If you are living with shoulder pain or discomfort, a physical therapist can solve your problem. Physical therapists help you learn more about your shoulder issues and find an appropriate shoulder pain treatment program designed to offer you long-term benefits.

A shoulder pain treatment should be tailored to fit a patient's specific condition for effectiveness. This explains why physical therapists develop individualized treatment plans for their patients. Some of the advantages of treating labral tears with physical therapy are:

  • Physical therapy helps to significantly reduce your pain without the use of addictive medication

  • It helps relieve swelling in the shoulder joint naturally

  • Improving blood circulation in the shoulder structures

  • Decreasing the level of tension in the shoulders

  • Increasing the range of motion within the shoulder joint

In addition to providing you with experienced personalized care, a physical therapist will employ multiple physical therapy techniques, with each technique chosen based on its ability to benefit your shoulder issue. Some of the methods that your physical therapist can employ to treat your shoulder pain include:

  • Manual therapy

  • Virtual therapy

  • Blood flow moderation training at-home care

  • Aquatic therapy

  • Functional dry needling

Why Choose Suarez Physical Therapy

For many years, Suarez Physical Therapy has been the leader in physical therapy services in Las Vegas, NV. We have maintained a greater level of success with all our patients by holding our physical therapists to a higher standard than other professionals hold in the region. Medical doctors, nurses, surgeons, and other healthcare providers recognize the Suarez Physical Therapy, constantly referring patients to us. There are many providers when it comes to physical therapy, and most of them offer similar services. So, why choose Suarez Physical Therapy for your shoulder rehabilitation?

We are comprised of a dedicated team of highly trained and experienced professionals who are friendly and professional. We also boast innovative equipment that enables us to adopt a holistic approach to rehabilitation and recovery. The relationships we foster with our clients are among our greatest attributes. We take time to know all our patients at a personal level. All our staff cares about our patients' recovery and wellbeing. In addition to facilitating a positive change in people's lives, we encourage and empower our patients to remain committed, heal, and thrive.

Patients play an active role in their recovery; we are dedicated to educating and empowering them to ensure that they play this role. We promise to provide personalized, comprehensive care to every patient. We don’t adopt a one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, we treat each patient as an individual and develop a rehabilitation program that is challenging and rewarding. When you come to use, we will help and inspire you to regain your physical strength and agility to get back to your normal activities as soon as possible.

Find A Las Vegas Physical Therapist Near Me

Do you need physical therapy services that are designed to provide you with the best benefits and heal your labral tears? Our team at Suarez physical therapy is ready to help you find an ideal treatment plan that meets your needs. We provide comprehensive screenings to help determine the cause of shoulder pain or discomfort. Our therapist will build an individualized treatment plan that promotes joint mobility and reduces pain. You don’t need a referral from your doctor to seek our services. Contact us today to schedule the initial appointment. Call us at 702-368-6778 and speak to one of our physical therapists.