The labrum is a ring of specialized cartilage resting on the outer edge of the socket of the shoulder joint (Figure 1). The labrum serves to deepen the shoulder socket and make it more concave. It helps stabilaze the ball in the socket.
The labrum can be torn anywhere along its length. Labrum tears can result from shoulder dislocation. The labrum can also tear due to repetitive wear and tear, such as in throwing athletes. Labrum tears are also seen with degenerative disease such as arthritis.
The biceps tendon passes from the arm into the shoulder joint where it attaches to the labrum. Physicians frequently speak of SLAP tears. SLAP is an acronym for Superior Labrum Anterior to Posterior. This refers to the sight of attachment of the bicepts tendon to the labrum; a common location for labrum tears. SLAP tears can be a source of shoulder pain, particularly in overhead athletes.
Typical treatment for labral tears involves activity modification, anti-inflammatory medications, and physical therapy. When medical treatment fails, arthroscopic repair of the labrum can be performed leading to reliable pain relief and restoration of function.