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5 Common Signs of a Labrum Tear

5 Common Signs of a Labrum Tear

If you’re having trouble using your shoulder, it could be caused by a tear in your labrum, the cushiony tissue that helps keep your upper arm bone in place inside the shoulder joint and allows your shoulder to move freely.

You can experience a torn labrum for different reasons. You might get a labral tear from an obvious injury, like a dislocated shoulder, trying to break a fall, or a direct blow to your shoulder. 

However, you can also experience a labral tear after long-term wear and tear on your shoulder from repetitive motions, especially sports, or lifting something heavy.   

At OasisMD Lifestyle Healthcare with offices in San Diego, Temecula, and Encinitas, California, our board-certified orthopedic surgeons, Drs. David Chao and Matthew Gargulinski, specialize in diagnosing and repairing tears in this important joint tissue.  

Our practice uses minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery to repair labral injuries whenever possible. Using smaller incisions and a tiny camera, this procedure allows your provider an up-close view of the surgical area while providing you with a faster recovery. 

If you’re dealing with persistent shoulder pain, it’s best to schedule an evaluation with an orthopedic specialist for an accurate diagnosis. In the meantime, here are the signs to look for that could point to a labral tear.   

1. Persistent shoulder pain

One of the telltale signs of a torn labrum is ongoing shoulder pain. However, this pain can vary depending on the location of your tear and the severity of the damage. 

For some people, the persistent pain may be a dull ache while for it can be a sharp pain deep in the shoulder joint. And for others, it might only appear when you move your arm into certain positions or try to carry out specific activities. 

Regardless of the nature of your shoulder pain, it’s important to talk to a shoulder specialist if you have ongoing pain in the shoulder that doesn’t resolve. 

2. Shoulder instability

The labral tissue in your shoulder joint plays a few roles. In addition to keeping your arm bone in the right location, it’s where your shoulder ligaments attach. 

It also supports your muscles and rotator cuff tendons to keep your joint stable when you move. When there’s a tear in this integral part of the joint, you can experience shoulder instability. 

This might feel like your shoulder is sliding or popping out of place. In some cases, it can lead to a complete dislocation of the shoulder joint. 

3. Catching, popping, and grinding

If it feels like your shoulder catches or locks when you move it, or if you hear or sense grinding or popping when you move your shoulders, it could point to a torn labrum. This is because when the labrum tears, it can separate from the bone

When it’s separated and you move your shoulder, this tissue can get caught in the shoulder joint and cause a popping, clicking, or snapping sound. It can also make it feel like something is grinding inside the joint.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that these sounds and sensations can be caused by other issues, including muscle tension, tendons rubbing on bone, and myofascial trigger point inflammation.  

4. Loss of shoulder strength

Your bicep muscle becomes a thin tendon as it approaches your shoulder, where it attaches to the labrum inside your shoulder joint. If the labrum is torn where this tendon attaches, it can cause a loss of shoulder strength. 

This can make it difficult to use your arm and shoulder, even for simple tasks that don’t require much muscle power. Depending on how severe the tear is, you might not feel like you can use the arm at all or you may still have some function but with pain.  

5. Limited range of motion

The ongoing pain, instability, and muscle weakness associated with a labral tear can make it difficult to move your shoulder and arm. As such, if you’ve noticed a decreased range of motion along with other signs of a labral tear, don’t wait to see a provider.

Your OasisMD Lifestyle Healthcare orthopedic surgeon conducts a physical exam to assess your range of motion, the stability of your shoulder, and your pain level during rest and motion. They use imaging, like an MRI or X-ray, to assess the joint for additional injuries and diagnose your symptoms. 


Recognize any of the above symptoms of a torn shoulder labrum? Schedule an evaluation with an orthopedic specialist at the Southern California OasisMD Lifestyle Healthcare location nearest you. 

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