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.
stands for "superior labrum, anterior to posterior"—in other words, "the top
part of the labrum, from the front to the back." It refers to the part of the
labrum that is injured, or torn, in a
What causes a SLAP tear?
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
Brace yourself with your outstretched arm in a car
Lift heavy objects repeatedly or too
Do a lot of overhead activities, such as throwing a
This injury was first identified in the 1980s in
athletes, like baseball players, whose sport requires them to do a lot of
Many people with SLAP tears
also have other shoulder injuries, such as a tear in the
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of a SLAP tear may
Popping, clicking, or catching in the
Pain when you move your arm over your head or throw a ball.
A feeling of weakness or instability in the shoulder.
Aching pain. People often have a hard time describing or pointing to exactly where the pain is.
How is a 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
A series of tests in which your doctor moves
your shoulder joint around to see which movements are causing your
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
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 he or she 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 is it treated?
The first step in treatment is
to see whether pain medicine and rehabilitation (rehab) can take care of the
NSAIDs, which are anti-inflammatory
medicines, may help the pain. NSAIDs are available
over the counter or by prescription. Ibuprofen (such as Advil or Motrin) and naproxen (such as Aleve) are commonly
You can also try using heat or ice on your shoulder for about 15 to 20 minutes at a time. If your shoulder is very painful, try using a sling for a few days to support your arm.
Rehab may include exercises to strengthen the rotator cuff muscles and to gently stretch the back of the shoulder. Your doctor or therapist will teach you to do the exercises and avoid pain, then the exercise program may be done at home.
For many people, surgery is the only
thing that helps. With
arthroscopic surgery, the doctor can get a close look
at the injury and also do some repairs at the same time.
What else could be causing your shoulder pain?
shoulder is a complex joint, and there are a number of other problems that can
cause pain there, such as:
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and American
Academy of Pediatrics (2010). Superior anterior-to-posterior lesions. In JF Sarwark, ed., Essentials of Musculoskeletal Care, 4th ed., pp. 328–332. Rosemont, IL: American Academy of
Beasley Vidal LS, et al. (2007). Shoulder injuries. In
PJ McMahon, ed., Current Diagnosis and Treatment in Sports Medicine, pp. 118–145. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Maffett MW, Lowe WR (2010). Rotator cuff. In JC DeLee et al., eds., DeLee and Drez's Orthopaedic Sports Medicine: Principles and Practice, 3rd ed., vol. 1, pp. 1016–1032. Philadelphia: Saunders.
Primary Medical Reviewer
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.