What is SLAP lesion?
A SLAP lesion, also known as SLAP tear, is an injury to the Glenoid labrum, which is the ring cartilage that surrounds the socket of the shoulder joint. SLAP is an acronym for Superior Labral tear from Anterior to Posterior.
What can cause a SLAP lesion/SLAP tear?
Injuries to this tissue rim surrounding the shoulder socket can occur from acute trauma or repetitive shoulder motion. Examples of traumatic injury may include:
- Falling on your outstretched arm
- A direct blow to the shoulder
- A sudden pull (or catch), when trying to lift a heavy object
- A jerk during an overhead reach, when trying to stop a slide or fall.
- As is clear from the above reasons, people who actively use their arms for lifting and sports persons are more prone to a SLAP tear.
SLAP tears are frequently found in throwing athletes. They are a cause of shoulder pain brought on by any throwing movement of the shoulder.
- Symptoms of a SLAP tear are very similar to those of shoulder injuries. They include:
- Pain – usually during activities which involve the shoulder
- Occasional night pain or pain with daily activities
- Reduction in range of motion
- Loss of strength
- A feeling of instability in the shoulder
A SLAP lesion/SLAP tear could not be diagnosed until 20 years ago. With mammoth advancements in the field of medicine, this is now possible. Diagnosing a SLAP tear is tougher than diagnosing a shoulder injury; sometimes a mere x-ray is not enough.
Your doctor will first take a history of your injury. You should inform her whether the pain started after a specific incident or gradually increased. The doctor will conduct physical tests to check motion, range, stability and pain. In addition, she will request x-rays to try and locate the problem. Because the rim of the shoulder is a soft tissue, chances are the x-rays will not expose the amount of damage caused to it. Hence, a computed tomography (CT) or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan may be ordered. In both instances, a medium may be injected to locate tears. Ultimately, however, the best diagnosis will be made with arthroscopic surgery
Until the final diagnosis is made, anti-inflammatory medicines will be prescribed to heal the swelling. During arthroscopic surgery, the doctor will examine the rim and the biceps tendon. If the injury is confined to the rim itself, without involving the tendon, the shoulder is still stable. The surgeon will remove the torn flap and correct any other associated problems. If the tear extends into the biceps tendon or if the tendon is detached, the shoulder is unstable. The surgeon will need to repair and reattach the tendon using absorbable tacks, wires, or sutures.
After surgery, you will need to keep your shoulder in a sling for 3-4 weeks. Gentle, passive, painless motion-range exercises will also be prescribed. After the sling is removed, the exercises will gradually need to be notched up to strengthen your biceps. Overall, it takes 3-4 months before the shoulder completely recovers.
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