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SLAP Tear Treatment Options

What is a SLAP tear?

A SLAP tear, which stands for Superior Labrum Anterior to Posterior tear, is a specific type of injury that affects the labrum in the shoulder joint. The labrum is a ring of cartilage that surrounds the socket (glenoid) of the shoulder, providing stability and cushioning. A SLAP tear occurs when there is damage to the upper portion of the labrum, where the long head of the biceps tendon attaches. This type of tear can result from acute trauma, such as a fall onto an outstretched arm, or repetitive overhead activities, such as throwing or lifting. Symptoms of a SLAP tear may include shoulder pain, clicking or popping sensations, weakness, and decreased range of motion. Diagnosis is typically made through a combination of physical examination, imaging studies such as MRI or CT arthrography, and possibly diagnostic injections.

How are SLAP tears treated?

Treatment for SLAP tears aims to address the underlying pathology, alleviate symptoms, and restore optimal function to the shoulder joint. The chosen treatment plan depends on various factors, including the severity of the tear, the patient’s age, activity level, and overall health, as well as the specific characteristics of the injury. Treatment options may include conservative measures such as rest, activity modification, physical therapy, and pain management. In cases where conservative approaches fail to provide relief or for more severe tears, surgical intervention like arthroscopic SLAP repair or biceps tenodesis may be recommended. The ultimate goal of treatment is to promote healing, improve shoulder stability, and enhance the patient’s quality of life.

What non-operative options are available?

  • Rest and Activity Modification: Avoiding activities that exacerbate symptoms and modifying movement patterns to reduce stress on the shoulder joint.
  • Pain Management: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), corticosteroid injections, or physical therapy modalities to alleviate pain and inflammation.
  • Physical Therapy: Targeted exercises to strengthen the muscles surrounding the shoulder joint, improve joint stability, and enhance range of motion.
  • Strengthening Exercises: Tailored exercises focusing on the rotator cuff muscles, deltoids, and scapular stabilizers to improve shoulder function and reduce symptoms.

What operative options are available?

  • Arthroscopic SLAP Repair: Minimally invasive surgery to reattach the torn labrum to the shoulder socket using sutures or anchors. This procedure aims to restore stability and function to the shoulder joint and promote healing of the labral tissue.
  • Biceps Tenodesis: In cases where the biceps tendon is involved in the SLAP tear, Dr. Shane J. Nho may perform a biceps tenodesis procedure to reattach the tendon to a different location on the humerus bone. This can alleviate symptoms and prevent further damage to the labrum.

What does rehabilitation look like?

Post-operative rehabilitation is essential for optimizing outcomes and restoring shoulder joint function. Physical therapy typically involves a structured program focusing on strengthening, range of motion exercises, and gradual return to activity. Patient education on proper shoulder mechanics and activity modification is crucial to prevent recurrence of symptoms and promote long-term shoulder health.

In conclusion, managing SLAP tears requires a comprehensive approach tailored to each individual’s specific needs and goals. By addressing the underlying cause and optimizing shoulder joint function, individuals with SLAP tears can experience improved pain relief and restored shoulder function.

Dr. Shane J. Nho is a board-certified fellowship trained sports medicine orthopaedic surgeon who specializes in the treatment of SLAP tears. If you believe you are affected by a SLAP tear, schedule a consultation today with our experienced orthopaedic care team.

At a Glance

Dr. Shane Nho

  • Board-certified, fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon
  • Team Physician for Chicago Bulls, White Sox, Steel
  • Performs more than 700 procedures each year
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