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Learning About Shoulder SLAP Tear

Shoulder and SLAP tear in shouder

What is a shoulder SLAP tear?

A SLAP tear is a specific kind of injury to your shoulder.

To help make your shoulder more stable, there is a ring of firm tissue, called the labrum, around your shoulder socket. The labrum (say "LAY-brum") helps keep your arm bone in the shoulder socket.

SLAP stands for "superior labrum, anterior to posterior"—in other words, "the top part of the labrum, from the front to the back." One of the biceps tendons attaches onto the labrum. This is the part that is injured or torn in a SLAP injury.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of a SLAP tear may include:

  • Popping, clicking, or catching in the shoulder.
  • Pain when you move your arm over your head or throw a ball.
  • The feeling that your shoulder is weak or not stable.
  • Aching pain. You may have a hard time describing this pain. Or you may not be able to show your doctor exactly where it is.

How is a shoulder SLAP tear treated?

The first step is to see if pain medicine and rehabilitation (rehab) can help.

If over-the-counter medicine such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) doesn't control your pain, your doctor may give you a prescription medicine.

Rehab includes doing a home exercise program, stretching, and avoiding activities that cause pain. If this doesn't help, your doctor may want you to go to a physiotherapist.

If you keep having pain even after rehab, you may need to see an orthopedic surgeon (a surgeon who repairs bones and joints). You may need to have more imaging and diagnostic tests such as X-rays, CT scans, or injections to help find out if surgery would be helpful.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Where can you learn more?

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