Shoulder Labral Tear

  Well done! You’ve taken the first steps to understanding and relieving your Labral Tear! Once you read this page answer the questions on the sheet given by your physiotherapist at Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy Australia and bring that to your next treatment session. Recovery from your Labral Tear is crucial in order to achieve your goals and gain rapid and long-lasting results. Your physiotherapist at Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy Australia has requested that you read this page so that you understand your condition and know how to best manage in between physiotherapy consultations. Shoulder Labral Tear

What is a Labral Tear?

The labrum is a structure that is found inside the shoulder joint that is responsible for increasing its stability. It has a ring-like shape and serves the purpose of increasing the surface area between the socket of the scapula (glenoid fossa) and the head of the humerus. A tear of this structure is called a labral tear or also commonly, a SLAP lesion, which is an abbreviation of ‘Superior, Labrum, Anterior to Posterior’. Due to age-related changes, the labrum becomes more prone to tearing and defects. A labral tear can often be very painful, and cause you to have restricted movements. There are also many different types of labral tears that you can sustain. SLAP lesion

What caused my Labral Tear?

Predisposition to injury to the labrum increases with age, however, it may still occur in young people. Common mechanisms of injury to the labrum include falling on an outstretched hand, heavy lifting, direct trauma to the shoulder, hyperextension and repetitive throwing. Additionally, labral tears are commonly associated with rotator cuff injuries as well. Studies have found that up to 40% of individuals with a labral tear suffer from a concomitant partial or full-thickness tear of the rotator cuff1. In younger people, or high-level athletes that have suffered a severe labral tear, surgery is sometimes warranted. However, for milder forms of labral tear, conservative management and physical therapy is the first-line treatment.  

How can you help me with my Labral Tear?

A detailed history, taken by your Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy Australia Clinician, of the pain or injury can determine the underlying cause of the Labral Tear, while a physical assessment of the shoulder, and surrounding structures, can determine the best course of action in treating the condition. Usually, treatment will involve correcting any abnormal movements of the shoulder, and increasing the subacromial space (the space between the roof of the “socket”, and the “ball” of the shoulder joint), and to gently mobilise the shoulder to maintain any range that is available. A program of strengthening, stretching and stabilization exercises will be tailored to you in order to begin the rehabilitation process. Treatment will also vary according to the stage of Labral Tear that you are currently experiencing.  

What should I do to avoid aggravating my Labral Tear?

  • AVOID overhead activities, particularly during the acute phase.
  • DO concentrate on maintaining good, erect posture, particularly during activities with that involve the shoulders.
  • Applying non-steroidal anti-inflammatories may help to reduce pain in the short term. CONSULT your PHARMACIST regarding their use.
  • REMAIN ACTIVE, but avoid aggravating activities.
  • RECEIVE physiotherapy care to get your joints, ligaments and muscles de-loaded and moving freely with no restrictions.
Keep good care of your body and your physiotherapist will continue to monitor your condition. Once your Labral Tear has resolved you will be able to resume your full activities without worrying about future flare-ups.

Tips from our physiotherapists


  1. 1 SNYDER SJ et al., SLAP lesions of the shoulder. Arthroscopy., 1990;6:274–279
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