PTD0616_SLAPIf you participate in sports that involve a repetitive overhead motion, such as baseball or weightlifting, you may be prone to developing a SLAP tear or SLAP lesion. SLAP, which stands for “superior labrum anterior to posterior,” refers to the ring of cartilage that surrounds the shoulder joint. While repetitive shoulder motions often lead to injury, SLAP tears more frequently result from an acute injury such as a fall on an outstretched arm or from a shoulder dislocation or motor vehicle accident. Depending on the severity of the injury, it can either be treated with physical therapy or surgery—but in either case, we will likely play a role in your recovery.

Symptoms of a SLAP tear include

  • a clicking, popping or grinding sensation when moving the shoulder
  • pain when moving your arm over your head
  • a weak or unstable feeling in the shoulder

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be necessary to definitively diagnose a SLAP tear. Arthritis, tendinitis and rotator cuff disorders can also cause shoulder pain or weakness. It is common for some patients to have both a SLAP tear and another condition.

Conservative treatment is often effective for a SLAP tear. We can design an individualized set of exercises that focuses on reducing pain, stretching the connective tissue that surrounds the joint, restoring range of motion, strengthening the muscles that support your shoulder and improving stability. These exercises not only can help relieve pain, but also prevent further injury to your shoulder.

Should your physician decide that surgery is the best course of treatment for you, we will work with you in the days and weeks after surgery to ensure complete healing. We begin with gentle stretches to improve flexibility and range of motion, then proceed to exercises that strengthen your muscles.

Whether you and your physician choose conservative treatment or surgery, a complete course of physical therapy is imperative to restore shoulder function after a SLAP tear. We will be happy to work with you throughout the healing process to ensure that you can resume your usual activities free of pain and stiffness.

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