SLAP Tears Treatment
A SLAP tear (or SLAP lesion) is a painful and inhibiting condition caused by damage to the smooth cartilage that lines the inside of your shoulder joint.
Some typical SLAP injury symptoms include a throbbing ache deep in your shoulder joint, a catching feeling, pain when lifting objects and weakness in your shoulder.
If you have any pain in your shoulder joint, it’s important to see a doctor as soon as possible. An early diagnosis can prevent the condition worsening or leading to other problems such as arthritis.
Our Capital Orthopaedics team offers state-of-the-art diagnostics and highly effective treatment at top private hospitals and clinics in London. Led by renowned orthopaedic surgeon, Simon Moyes, Capital Orthopaedics is made up of expert medical professionals, including consultant surgeons, radiologists, physiotherapists and nurses.
Dedicated to getting you back to strength and fitness in the quickest time possible, we use the latest medical procedures and therapies to treat shoulder problems with minimal intervention.
What is a SLAP Tear?
SLAP stands for Superior Labral Tear from Anterior to Posterior. The ball and socket part of your shoulder joint is made up of the rounded top of your upper arm bone (humerus head) and the dish-like socket (glenoid) in your shoulder blade.
The socket is lined with a ring of slippery cartilage called the labrum, which helps with smooth movement. This cartilage can get torn as a result of injury to your shoulder joint. It is often connected to other injuries to your shoulder structures, such as tendon injuries, rotator cuff tear, shoulder dislocation and fractures.
What are the Different Types of SLAP Tears?
SLAP tears are divided into different categories. Types II to IV usually require keyhole surgery.
- Type I tear: fraying around the top of the labrum, mostly due to ageing and wear and tear
- Type II tear: a piece of the labrum gets torn out of the glenoid socket at the point where the biceps tendon is anchored.
- Type III tear: also known as ‘bucket-handle tear’. The torn labrum droops into the shoulder joint, but the biceps tendon remains intact.
- Type IV tear: a bucket-handle tear combined with damage to the biceps tendon
What are the Symptoms of a SLAP Tear?
The symptoms of a SLAP tear can be similar to some other shoulder conditions, so it’s important to get a proper diagnosis (MRI or ultrasound scans and x-rays) before embarking on treatment plans.
Typical SLAP lesion symptoms include:
- Dull throbbing pain deep in the shoulder or at the back of the shoulder
- Difficulty sleeping
- Weakness in the shoulder or a ‘dead arm’ sensation
- Discomfort when throwing, lifting and carrying
- Locking, popping, catching or grinding
- Instability – a feeling that your joint might ‘pop out’ of its socket
What Causes a SLAP Tear?
SLAP tears can be caused by a number of injuries including:
- Repetitive overhead sports: eg tennis, swimming, cricket, weightlifting, climbing
- Acute trauma: eg impact on the outside of your shoulder, powerfully pulling on your arm, quickly moving your arm when it is above shoulder level
- Age: anyone over 40 can be at risk of a Type I SLAP tear.
How Can a SLAP Tear be Treated?
A SLAP tear is diagnosed using an MRI scan. If there has been an acute trauma, an x-ray or CT scan may be necessary to check for a bone fracture.
Almost all SLAP tears are treated surgically, using keyhole (arthroscopic) surgery. During SLAP repair, the torn cartilage may be trimmed or reattached to the glenoid socket along with the biceps tendon.
Physical therapy rehabilitation will depend on the type of surgery, with the focus on regaining full range of motion and strengthening the muscles around your shoulder. With a Type I tear, physiotherapy can help to improve movement and strengthen the muscles.
For Type I tears, steroid injections may help to reduce inflammation and aid with physiotherapy exercises. Ultrasound-guided plasma injections may also be used to stimulate healing.
How Capital Orthopaedics Can Help Treat Your SLAP Tears
Simon Moyes and the team can help from the moment you first get in touch about your shoulder problem.
We’re dedicated to getting you an appointment as quickly as possible – always aiming to provide initial consultation, physical exam, diagnostic scans, radiologist review and treatment consultation in one visit.
Frequently Asked Questions
No – even minor SLAP lesions will need physiotherapy after a period of rest to build up the muscles and gently increase range of motion, and many will also need steroid injections to reduce inflammation. Most SLAP tears require surgery.
This depends on the type of SLAP tear. Type I lesions may take several weeks, including a period of rest, physiotherapy and steroid injections, before you recover fully. After surgery, it will usually be six weeks before you can return to normal activities, and three months or more before you can return to sports or heavy manual work.
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