Superior Labrum Anterior and Posterior (SLAP)


It’s a SLAP in the… Shoulder?

SLAP is an acronym that stands for the Superior Labrum Anterior and Posterior. These terms may not be familiar to you. What about shoulder pain? Pain with lifting objects – particularly if you have to lift it over your head? Decreased range of upper body motion? Those might be more familiar to you, and the culprit might just be a SLAP injury.



How does the shoulder work?

Think of your shoulder as a ball-and-socket joint made up of three bones – your upper arm (humerus), your shoulder blade (scapula) and your collarbone (clavicle). Your upper arm fits into a rounded socket in your shoulder blade; this socket uses a strong fibrous tissue known as the labrum to stabilize the shoulder joint. What happens in a SLAP injury is the top part of the labrum is injured – this top area is also where the biceps tendon attaches to the labrum. A SLAP tear occurs both in the front and the back of this attachment point. Adding injury to injury, the biceps tendon can be involved in the injury as well.

Unlike some injuries, a SLAP tear may not be the result of overexertion or exercise, but may simply be the result of the wearing down of the labrum over time and be part of the normal aging process.



What makes the doctor suspect a SLAP injury?

What can make diagnosing a SLAP injury is that the symptoms of a SLAP tear are similar to many other shoulder problems and include:

  • Feelings of ‘popping’, ‘grinding’, ‘locking’ and other sensations
  • Pain lifting objects overhead
  • A decreased range of motion
  • Feelings of having a dead arm after much arm/shoulder exertion such as pitching or throwing
  • Holding the shoulder in specific positions causes pain



How does the examination work?

With such a variety of symptoms, your doctor will first speak to you to find if there was a specific injury or event that caused your shoulder pain – although we’re well aware that many patients may not remember a specific event. During the physical examination, we will check for the range of motion, stability, and overall strength of your shoulder. A common injury that can masquerade as SLAP injury is a –pinched nerve, so your doctor may run imaging tests such as X-rays or Magnetic Resonance Imaging scans (commonly known as MRI scans). In most MRIs, they will use a dye, that will showup on the scan and make viewing the injury easier. Your doctor will use these results to confirm your SLAP concerns.



What are your treatment options for a SLAP injury?

Frequently, the initial treatment for a SLAP injury is nonsurgical and may include anti-inflammatory drugs that reduce swelling and help with pain management. Physical therapy has also proven to be quite effective in strengthening and restoring movement in injured shoulders.

However, surgery may be the best option in the end. The most common surgical technique used for repairing a SALP injury is known as arthroscopy. During arthroscopy, a small camera is inserted into your shoulder join, and the surgeon uses these images to guide small thin surgical instruments to repair your shoulder. This technique allows for small incisions to repair your shoulder, and avoid the risks and dangers inherent in standard open surgery.

SLAP injuries, like any other serious injury, needs to be carefully diagnosed and treated. If you have any concerns about your shoulder or need a second opinion about your medical options, we recommend you contact Coastal Orthopedics Sports Medicine & Pain Management to arrange a consultation with one of our qualified and caring staff.


Suffering from a SLAP injury? Contact a Specialist Today

Or contact our office today at (941)792-1404


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