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Doctor examining patient with a shoulder labral tear

Shoulder Labral Tear

It shouldn’t be painful to reach for a book on the high shelf. Or put dishes away. Or even wave to your neighbor.

But if you have a shoulder labral tear, everyday activities like these — or cooking, exercising, driving or even sleeping — can seem almost impossible. You can’t reach overhead. You can’t reach behind you. It hurts to lie down. It hurts to look behind you. It’s time to get help.

Cleveland Clinic‘s highly skilled orthopaedic healthcare providers are here for you. We can diagnose your shoulder pain and build a personalized treatment plan to put you on the road to recovery.

Why Choose Cleveland Clinic for Shoulder Pain Care?

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Personalized care:

Your care plan may combine several different treatments, like injections, physical therapy or maybe even surgery. Your provider listens to your story, learns more about your symptoms and asks about your goals. They use this information to recommend the treatments they feel are best for you.

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Innovation and research:

Cleveland Clinic orthopaedic specialists have pioneered innovative methods and technologies used worldwide. This includes healing fractures with advanced techniques, building better artificial joints, repairing cartilage and biologically engineering and enhancing ligaments and tissue. Meet our team.

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Comprehensive treatment:

We first try to treat shoulder pain without surgery, using braces, medications and physical therapy. But if you need surgery, our board-certified surgeons treat simple to complex cases with arthroscopic or minimally invasive surgery, total joint replacements and more.

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Virtual visits:

Getting care should be convenient. That’s why we offer virtual visits for some appointments. If you have an internet connection and smartphone, tablet or computer, you can talk one-on-one with your providers from home, work or even your favorite coffee shop.

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National recognition:

Cleveland Clinic is a trusted healthcare leader. We're recognized in the U.S. and throughout the world for our expertise and care.

Shoulder Labral Tear Diagnosis at Cleveland Clinic

A lot of things can cause a shoulder labral tear. Whether your pain has gotten worse over time or you’ve had a sudden injury, our team will get to the root of it. We’ll look carefully at all of your symptoms and take a detailed medical history. Then we may do some tests, including:

  • Physical exam: Your healthcare provider checks your shoulder for swelling and tenderness. They also test stability and range of motion by asking you to move your arm in different directions.
  • X-ray: A shoulder X-ray helps us look at your joint and make sure you don’t have a fractured or dislocated shoulder. Sometimes these injuries can happen along with a labral tear if you fall or get into a car accident.
  • MRI: An MRI gives us detailed pictures of the soft tissues in your shoulder joint, including your labrum. We can see if the tear is partial or complete. A partial tear means the cartilage frays but stays attached to the bone. A complete tear means the cartilage detaches from the bone.

Meet Our Shoulder Labral Tear Team

Your team of experienced healthcare providers work together to diagnose and treat your shoulder labral tear. These providers could include:


Our healthcare providers see patients at convenient locations throughout Northeast Ohio, Florida and London.

Shoulder Labral Tear Treatment at Cleveland Clinic

Our specialists will match your shoulder treatment plan to your needs and recovery goals. We may use a few different therapies for the best results. Sometimes we can treat a shoulder labral tear without surgery, but other times, surgery may the best way to go.

Shoulder labral tear treatments without surgery

We’ll first see if we can treat your shoulder without surgery. Treatments could include:

  • Rest: We’ll ask you to stop doing things that cause shoulder pain. We may also suggest icing your shoulder regularly or wearing a brace or sling to limit movement.
  • Medication: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Advil® or Motrin®) or naproxen (Aleve®), can lessen shoulder pain and swelling.
  • Physical or occupational therapy: Physical therapy can help you regain strength and flexibility in your shoulder. Occupational therapists can also show you how to adapt everyday activities to make them easier on your shoulder.
  • Corticosteroid injections: Steroid injections in your shoulder can reduce inflammation. We use an X-ray or ultrasound to guide the injection (shot). This helps us send the medication to the exact place you have pain.
  • Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy: During PRP therapy, we take blood from your arm and process it in a lab to separate the platelets (cells that help your blood clot) from the red and white blood cells. The platelets become concentrated in the blood’s plasma. We then inject your shoulder with the plasma, which may help your labrum get better.

Shoulder labral tear surgery

We may recommend surgery for severe, unstable shoulder labral tears. We try to do most surgeries arthroscopically. Shoulder arthroscopy is a minimally invasive procedure that helps you recover faster and with less pain. You’ll either have a local anesthetic called a nerve block or be asleep with general anesthesia.

During minimally invasive labrum surgery, your surgeon will make some tiny incisions (cuts) around your shoulder. They’ll insert a special tool with a light and video camera on the end (arthroscope) into one of the incisions and surgical tools into the other. They’ll use these tools to remove any damaged tissue or attach it to bones in your shoulder socket or upper arm.

The surgery usually takes less than an hour. You’ll stay at the hospital for an hour or two more so we can check on you and make sure everything is OK. In most cases, you’ll go home the same day as surgery. You’ll need a friend or relative to drive you home and stay with you overnight because you’ll be on pain medication.

Your labrum tear will take a few months to heal. It’ll likely swell for several weeks, and you might need to wear a sling. But you’ll meet with our experienced physical therapy team within a few weeks after surgery. They’re highly trained in therapy techniques to help you recover as quickly as possible with a rehab plan that reflects your unique needs and goals.

Taking the Next Step

You’ve lived with shoulder pain long enough. It’s time to throw another pitch. Lift your kids or grandkids up again. Do a few push-ups at the gym. Or just reach for that book on the high shelf without wincing in pain. We can help you get there with personalized treatment for your shoulder labral tear. It’s time to get back to being active and having fun — without pain.

Getting an appointment with Cleveland Clinic’s shoulder labral tear experts is easy. We’re here to help you get care.


Getting an appointment with Cleveland Clinic’s shoulder labral tear experts is easy. We’re here to help you get care.

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