How to Help Recovery Go Smoothly Following a Torn Shoulder Labrum

What is the Labrum?

The shoulder labrum is a thick piece of cartilage attached to the rim of your shoulder sockets, helping keep your shoulder joints in place. If you experience an injury to your labrum, it can cause a great deal of pain, and if it's torn, it could make it impossible to move your arm. 

What is the Purpose of the Labrum?

The labrum has two jobs. The first is to deepen the shoulder socket, so the joint stays in place. The second is to attach other tissues around the joint. The labrum is a thick cartilage attached to the rim of your shoulder socket and acts as a bumper to deepen your shoulder socket and help keep your shoulder in place. 

What is a Torn Shoulder Labrum?

A torn shoulder labrum occurs when the ring of cartilage that holds your shoulder joint in place becomes frayed or torn. A tear can lead to extreme pain, instability in the shoulder joint, and in severe cases, dislocation of the shoulder. Shoulder dislocation can also be the cause of a torn labrum. Imagine a golf ball resting on a golf tee when you think of your shoulder joint. The labrum acts as a rim for the shoulder socket (the golf tee) so that the humerus or upper arm bone (the golf ball) doesn’t fall off easily. If the labrum becomes torn, it makes it more difficult for the humerus to stay in the socket. Resulting in the shoulder joint being unstable and more prone to injury. Labral tears can occur from extra strain on the biceps muscle, like when you throw a ball. Tears can also happen from compressing the shoulder joint while the arm is raised overhead. 

Symptoms and Diagnosis

If you experience a shoulder labral tear, you may feel pain over the top of your shoulder, popping or clicking sounds when you move your shoulder and weakness in the affected shoulder. Some patients will also describe a sensation that their shoulder joint feels like it will pop out of place. However, not all patients with a torn shoulder labrum will experience symptoms. Many people continue to function as usual without symptoms when tears are small. Although, even if you are not experiencing symptoms, small tears can progressively worsen, leading to pain and weakness. Suppose it is suspected that you have a torn shoulder labrum. In that case, your healthcare provider will review your health records and perform a physical examination to test the condition of your labrum. If it is found that there is a labral tear, your healthcare provider will then decide whether or not surgery is needed. 

How Physical Therapy Can Help

When shoulder labral tears are minor and are not causing any instability in the shoulder, they can often be treated with physical therapy. During physical therapy, your therapist will educate you about specific movements and activities to avoid and form a detailed treatment plan for your recovery. Treatment may include manual therapy, strengthening, stretching, and postural exercises. They will also educate you on how to exercise safely at home. An excellent tool for completing exercises at home is the Over Door Shoulder Rehab Exercise Pulley. A shoulder exercise pulley is a simple cord with adjustable handles connected to a pulley system and an anchor to attach to any door easily. The anchor is wedged over the door and frame, allowing you to conveniently perform various shoulder pulley exercises in your home. A shoulder exercise pulley is a great way to increase your range of motion and strengthen your shoulder muscles, which is vital for regaining mobility after any shoulder injury. Click on the image below to get your over-the-door shoulder pulley today. 


In severe cases, surgery is required to reattach the torn cartilage. After surgery, physical therapy is vital to make a full recovery. During physical therapy, your therapist will introduce strengthening and resistance exercises to help you regain full strength and mobility. The over-the-door shoulder pulley can be an excellent tool for performing these strength and mobility exercises at home. Your therapist will also teach you how to safely move again and return to daily activities. Ultimately, physical therapy is the primary key to returning to your usual activities without reinjuring your shoulder labrum.