Shoulder Pain: Does a tear need surgery?

The upper part of the shoulder socket has a ligament called the SLAP ligament (Superior Labrum Anterior to Posterior). It stabilizes the long head of the bicep tendon and keeps the ball joint in place in its socket. Damage to the SLAP ligament most often results in shoulder pain and weakness. Activities like throwing a ball or reaching overhead become especially difficult. 

Common Causes:

  • Sports related activities that involve repetitive ball throwing
  • Lifting a heavy object
  • Falling on an outstretched arm

An arthrogram, MRI and arthroscopy along with physical special manual tests are the most reliable means of diagnosing a SLAP tear. Treatments depend on the severity of the tear and the patient's health and lifestyle. Physical therapy is recommended for all types. Small, stable tears may be left to heal on their own while unstable ones may require surgical reattachment or removal.