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Shoulder labral tears and treatment options

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Labral injuries don’t automatically lead to surgery, says Dr. John Awowale, an orthopedic surgeon with Orthopedics & Sports Medicine BayCare Clinic.

The labrum is a thick band of tissue surrounding the shoulder socket. It helps stabilize the shoulder joint. Labral injuries, specifically tears, can result in loss of arm strength and motion as well as an unstable feeling in the shoulder often accompanied by a catching, locking or grinding sensation.

“The classic way that you tear a labrum … would be to dislocate the shoulder,” Awowale says. Actions such as a fall onto an outstretched arm, lifting a heavy object or repetitive overhead motion in sports like baseball and volleyball also can cause a labral tear.

A labral tear doesn’t always require surgery, Awowale says.

“Labral injuries, a lot of them, people that have shoulder dislocations think they need labral surgery immediately,” he says. “A lot of time that’s not the case. If you continue to have instability events then sometimes it can lead to that.”

Depending on the type of labral tear, non-operative treatments may help including physical therapy and exercises that target the muscles around the shoulder.

“A lot of it’s trying to regain range in motion as well as the strength to overcome … the labral injury itself,” Awowale says. “A lot of people can get back to doing the activities that they were (doing) before the labral injury non-operatively.”

When the surgeon determines surgery is the best treatment option, patients can expect to be treated using an arthroscopic technique.

“The procedure itself probably takes about an hour and a half and then patients are discharged home that same day,” Awowale says. Patients will wear a sling for up to six weeks.

Think you may have a labral issue?

“It’s not out of the question if you have ongoing shoulder pain to come see a specialist and talk about it,” Awowale says.

Published: Thursday, November 10, 2022
Author: Femi Cole