The labrum is the cushion cartilage in the shoulder that provides several important functions. Attached to the socket, it helps to deepen the socket, provides attachment for important ligaments, and helps to stabilize the ball (humeral head) on the socket (glenoid).
Labral tears can occur from overuse as well as after a traumatic injury. The labrum also breaks down (degenerates) over time. It is thus common to find labral tears in patients over the age of 40.
Labral tears can often be treated using non-operative methods, including activity modification, anti-inflammatory medication, cortisone injections, and physical therapy. The goal of physical therapy is to strengthen the rotator cuff and muscles around the shoulder blade in an effort to gain dynamic stability of the shoulder. If non-operative treatment is unable to improve symptoms, your physician may consider further investigation using an MRI. Often, contrast is injected into the shoulder to help identify a labral tear.
Surgical repair of a labral tear can be done using arthroscopic techniques. The goal of surgery is to repair the labrum down to the area of the bone on the glenoid (socket) where it normally inserts. Improvements after surgery have been reported in up to 94% of patients.