A SLAP tear is a type of shoulder injury that affects the labrum, a ring of cartilage that surrounds the socket of the shoulder joint. SLAP stands for Superior Labrum Anterior to Posterior. This type of tear occurs at the point where the biceps tendon attaches to the labrum.
Causes of SLAP Tear
SLAP tears can be caused by a variety of factors, including:
Overuse or repetitive movements: Athletes who perform repetitive overhead motions, such as baseball pitchers, tennis players, or volleyball players, can develop a SLAP tear.
Trauma: Falling on an outstretched arm or experiencing a direct blow to the shoulder can cause a SLAP tear.
Degeneration: The labrum can degenerate over time, making it more prone to injury. This can happen as a natural part of the aging process, or as a result of wear and tear from physical activity.
Age: SLAP tears are more common in individuals over the age of 40, as the labrum can become weaker and more prone to injury with age.
Genetics: Some individuals may be more predisposed to developing SLAP tears due to genetic factors.
Signs and Symptoms of SLAP Tear
The signs and symptoms of a SLAP tear can vary depending on the severity of the injury, but may include:
- Pain: Pain is the most common symptom of a SLAP tear. The pain may be felt deep within the shoulder joint and may be worse when performing overhead activities.
- Weakness: Weakness in the affected arm may be experienced, particularly when lifting objects or performing other activities that require strength.
- Popping or clicking: Some individuals with a SLAP tear may experience a popping or clicking sensation in the shoulder when moving the arm.
- Instability: The shoulder joint may feel unstable or loose, as though it might “pop out” of place.
- Reduced range of motion: A SLAP tear can make it difficult to move the arm through a full range of motion, particularly when reaching overhead or behind the back.
- Feeling of catching or locking: Some individuals may experience a feeling of catching or locking in the shoulder joint when moving the arm.
Treatment for SLAP Tear
The physiotherapy treatment of a SLAP tear may include:
Rest and immobilization: Initially, the shoulder may need to be rested and immobilized to allow the tear to heal. This may involve wearing a sling or brace.
Ice and heat therapy: Ice therapy can be used to reduce pain and swelling, while heat therapy can be used to improve blood flow to the injured area.
Range of motion exercises: Once the initial pain and swelling have subsided, range of motion exercises can be used to help restore normal movement to the shoulder joint.
Strengthening exercises: Strengthening exercises can be used to help rebuild the muscles and tendons around the shoulder joint, which can help to improve stability and reduce the risk of re-injury.
Manual therapy: Manual therapy techniques, such as massage and joint mobilization, can be used to help reduce pain and stiffness in the shoulder joint.
Education and activity modification: Physiotherapists can provide education and advice on how to modify daily activities to avoid further injury to the shoulder joint.
Return to sport or activity: Once the shoulder has healed, the physiotherapist can help the individual safely return to their sport or activity, with a focus on gradually increasing the intensity and duration of the activity.
If you have any questions or would like to speak to a therapist about SLAP tear please call us at 03 9836 1126.
Friel, N. A., Karas, S. G., & Mair, S. D. (2014). SLAP lesions: A treatment algorithm. Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, 22(11), 665-674. doi: 10.5435/JAAOS-22-11-665.