What is shoulder slap tear?

Shoulder SLAP Tear

Shoulder SLAP tear: Overview

Shoulder injuries can be slow to heal, but your shoulder may get better with time. The first step in treatment is to see whether pain medicine and rehabilitation (rehab) can take care of the problem.

What are the symptoms of a shoulder SLAP tear?

With a shoulder SLAP tear, you may have popping, clicking, or catching in the shoulder. Your shoulder may feel weak or not stable. You may have pain when you move your arm over your head. The pain might feel achy and hard to describe and locate.

How is a shoulder SLAP tear treated?

Pain medicine and rehabilitation (rehab) may help. Rehab may include home exercises, stretching, avoiding activities that cause pain, and going to a physical therapist. For many people, surgery is the only thing that helps.

How is a shoulder SLAP tear diagnosed?

A SLAP tear can be hard to identify, because there are so many other things that can cause shoulder pain and because SLAP tears are not common. Ways to diagnose a SLAP tear include:

  • A series of tests in which your doctor moves your shoulder joint around to see which movements are causing your pain.
  • MRI. A special dye is injected into your shoulder before you have an MRI scan. When a dye is used, the test is called an MRI arthrogram.
  • Arthroscopic surgery. This is the only sure way to know whether you have a SLAP tear. Your doctor will make small cuts, called incisions, in your shoulder. Then the doctor can look at the inside of your joint by inserting a tiny camera attached to a thin tube. The doctor may be able to repair the tear at the same time.

How can you care for yourself when you have a shoulder SLAP tear?

Do exercises and stretching at home as directed by your therapist or doctor. Wear a sling if your doctor recommends it. You can also put a cold pack on the sore area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Use moist heat if there isn't any swelling. Take pain medicines exactly as directed.

What causes a shoulder SLAP tear?

A shoulder SLAP tear is when the labrum frays or tears because of an injury. You may get a SLAP tear if you:

  • Fall on your outstretched arm.
  • Fall on your shoulder.
  • Brace yourself with your outstretched arm in a car accident.
  • Lift heavy objects repeatedly or too suddenly.
  • Do a lot of overhead activities, such as throwing a baseball.

This injury was first identified in the 1980s in athletes, like baseball players, whose sport requires them to do a lot of overhead throwing.

Many people with SLAP tears also have other shoulder injuries, such as a tear in the rotator cuff.

Shoulder SLAP tear

One type of shoulder SLAP tear

A SLAP tear is an injury to a piece of shoulder cartilage called the labrum. This cartilage surrounds the shoulder socket, helping to keep it stable when you move. Your arm muscle (biceps) is attached to your shoulder by a biceps tendon. This tendon connects your biceps to the labrum at the top of the shoulder joint. A SLAP tear happens when the labrum is damaged where the biceps tendon is attached.

SLAP stands for Superior Labrum Anterior to Posterior.

Shoulder slap tear: When to call

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You cannot use your shoulder.
  • Your shoulder does not get better as expected.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.

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