The arrangement of bones in the shoulder joint is inherently unstable. In order to provide stability over a large range of motion, a cuff of connective tissue called cartilage surrounds the shoulder joint and provides a more secure space in which the ball of the arm bone can move. A tear in the cartilage due to age or during an acute shoulder injury destabilizes the shoulder joint and causes subsequent pain.
The team of shoulder specialists at the Shoulder Surgery Center of Excellence is committed to providing comprehensive care for shoulder conditions. Our orthopedic surgeons are very experienced in treating structural injuries to the shoulder, offering the latest and most effective treatment for cartilage tears. Contact our expert doctors by calling (888) 847-0357.
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Types of Cartilage Tears
The shoulder joint contains two types of cartilage: fibrocartilage and hyaline cartilage. The fibrocartilage, also known as the labrum, forms a thick cuff of tissue extending to the socket of the shoulder joint. Ligaments that stabilize the joint attach to the labrum and help prevent dislocation of the shoulder during normal movements. Hyaline cartilage lines the internal surface of the arm bone and the shoulder blade and prevents bone-on-bone movement within the ball-and-socket joint. The most common tears to cartilage in the shoulder include:
- SLAP Tears – A superior labral tear from anterior to posterior (SLAP) occurs at the top of the shoulder joint. Patients who participate in sports involving repetitive overhead activities, such as weightlifting, baseball, or swimming, are more susceptible to SLAP tears. Additional information regarding SLAP Tears can be found on this article by the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.
- Bankart Tears – Labral tears occur during a shoulder dislocation or AC joint separation, in which the bones are displaced from their natural position.
- Hyaline Cartilage Tear – This injury is typically due to chronic wear and tear on the inner surface of the joint, a condition which results in painful bone-on-bone movement.
What Are the Symptoms of a Labral Tear?
Cartilage damage can occur gradually or with an acute injury. Symptoms of chronic cartilage damage may be only slightly bothersome at first, but could worsen over time. During a shoulder injury that causes an acute tear in the labrum, the following symptoms may develop rapidly:
- Pain with lifting overhead
- Decrease in shoulder strength
- A feeling that the shoulder can slip out of the joint
- Pain with holding or moving the shoulder in certain positions
- Feeling of having a “dead arm”
How Are Cartilage Tears Treated?
Cartilage in the shoulder has a rich blood supply that helps the natural healing process. In mild cases of cartilage damage, the tissue can heal with rest and physical therapy. Activity modification and anti-inflammatory medication can relieve some of the painful symptoms of a cartilage tear.
Severe labral tears due to injury or chronic degeneration of cartilage from diseases such as arthritis may require surgery. The goal of surgical cartilage repair is to remove irritated tissue from the shoulder joint and to secure the torn tissue to the rim of the shoulder socket with either sutures or tacks. At the Shoulder Surgery of Excellence, our surgeons perform cartilage repair using a minimally invasive arthroscopic procedure on an outpatient basis.
Recovery From Cartilage Repair Surgery
Following surgical repair of a labral tear, physical therapy is used to regain strength and range of joint motion. Physical therapy can also effectively change a patient’s overhead throwing mechanism, strengthen the muscles that externally rotate the shoulder, and stretch the posterior capsule. Specific rehabilitation plans depend on the location and severity of the tear.
When surgery is performed arthroscopically, post-surgery pain and recovery time can be significantly reduced. The vast majority of patients have enjoy function after labrum repair, and most patients can return to performing their previous activities with no or few restrictions.
At the Shoulder Surgery Center of Excellence, our top priority is to provide exceptional results for our patients within a comfortable environment. Our orthopedic surgeons are experts in the latest minimally invasive shoulder procedures, and are trained in both the conservative management and surgical correction of shoulder dislocation.
Contact a Los Angeles Orthopedic Surgeon
The Shoulder Surgery Center of Excellence offers renowned orthopedic surgeons specializing in the comprehensive treatment of shoulder injuries and chronic shoulder joint conditions. If you have specific questions about cartilage injury, you can contact our shoulder surgeons in Los Angeles by calling (888) 847-0357.
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