SLAP Tear Causing Shoulder Pain | Diagnosis & Treatment


A SLAP tear is a cause of shoulder pain.

The the long head of your biceps tendon goes inside the shoulder joint and  joins with the glenoid labrum (shoulder cartilage) in the top of the shoulder.

A SLAP tear refers to a tear or avulsion of this attachment of the long head of biceps tendon’s anchorage into the upper portion of the glenoid labrum.

SLAP tear stands for Superior Labrum Anterior Posterior lesion.

Common reasons for a SLAP tear include:

  1. Fall onto an outstretched hand
  2. Repetitive overhead actions (throwing)
  3. Lifting a heavy object

Symptoms of a SLAP tear may include:

  1. Painful popping, clicking, or catching in the shoulder.
  2. Pain when you move your arm over your head or reach back.
  3. Pain when you throw a ball.
  4. An ache often described as being deep inside the shoulder.

4 different types of SLAP tears have been described.  The commonest type that I see and treat is the Type 2 tear.

Snyder's SLAP Tear Classification
Snyder’s SLAP Tear Classification

This is an arthroscopic picture of a Type 2 SLAP tear:

The symptoms of a SLAP tear include:

  1. Painful popping, clicking, or catching in the shoulder.
  2. Pain when you move your arm over your head or reach for the back.
  3. Pain when you throw a ball.
  4. An ache often described as being deep inside the shoulder (often difficult to pin-point).

Diagnosis of SLAP tear includes:

  • Clinical examination.  I have found the O’Brien’s test to be useful in my clinical practice. This is a picture of how this test is done:

  • MRI scan can usually show the tear.
SLAP Tear on MRI
The arrow points to the SLAP Tear

SLAP tears rarely heal well without surgery in my experience.  The treatment is arthroscopic (keyhole) surgery to the shoulder to repair the tear back to the glenoid attachment.

This picture shows a type 2 SLAP tear being examined during arthroscopy of the right shoulder.

This is a picture of the SLAP tear after it has been surgically repaired through key-hole surgery.

SLAP Tear Repaired

For more information on SLAP tear of the shoulder or if you need advice on shoulder pain problems, please contact Dr HC Chang at 683-666-36 or email hcchang@ortho.com.sg

Do visit our website at http://www.ortho.com.sg

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