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SLAP Tear

A SLAP tear is an injury to a part of the shoulder joint called the labrum.
A specific type of labral tear is called a SLAP tear; this stands for Superior Labrum from Anterior to Posterior. The SLAP tear occurs at the point where the tendon of the biceps muscle inserts on the labrum.

Common reasons for a SLAP tear include:

  • Fall onto an outstretched hand
  • Repetitive overhead actions (throwing)
  • Lifting a heavy object

The area of the labrum where the SLAP tear occurs is susceptible to injury because it is an area of relatively poor vascularity. Other parts of the labrum often heal more easily because the blood supply delivers a healing capacity to the area of the tear. In the area of SLAP tears this is not the case, and chronic shoulder pain can occur.

Symptoms:

The common symptoms of a SLAP tear are similar to many other shoulder problems. They include:

  • A sensation of locking, popping, catching, or grinding
  • Pain with movement of the shoulder or with holding the shoulder in specific positions
  • Pain with lifting objects, especially overhead
  • Decrease in shoulder strength
  • A feeling that the shoulder is going to “pop out of joint”
  • Decreased range of motion

Pitchers may notice a decrease in their throw velocity, or the feeling of having a “dead arm” after pitching

Treatment Options:

Nonsurgical Treatment:
In many cases, the initial treatment for a SLAP injury is nonsurgical. Treatment options may include:

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication. Drugs like ibuprofen and naproxen reduce pain and swelling.

Physical therapy. Specific exercises will restore movement and strengthen your shoulder.

Surgical Treatment:
Your doctor may recommend surgery if your pain does not improve with nonsurgical methods.

Arthroscopy. The surgical technique most commonly used for repairing a SLAP injury is arthroscopy.