What is it?

A SLAP tear is a specific type of injury shoulder. A ring of firm tissue called the labrum is what makes your shoulder stable. It is responsible for keeping your arm bone in its socket.

The word SLAP is an abbreviation of Superior Labrum Anterior to Posterior. It is the top part of the labrum which is typically injured.

What Causes It?

The SLAP tears because it is injured. The leading causes of the tear include:

  • Falling on your shoulder
  • Falling on your outstretched arm
  • Blocking yourself with an overstretched arm in an accident
  • Lifting heavy objects
  • Overhead activities like doing baseball

Symptoms

SLAP tear includes:

  • Shoulder clicking, shoulder popping and catching in the shoulder.
  • Having a weak shoulder.
  • Feeling pain when you move your arm or when throwing a ball above the level of your head.
  • Patients experiencing difficulties in reaching for objects.
  • A weightlifter may experience pain when lifting weights.
  • An athlete may experience a decline in performance in the field activities, especially an activity that requires shoulder power.

Treatment

The type of treatment is usually decided, depending on whether you have had a SLAP before. Often, treatment is conservative, with a focus on strengthening the muscles around the shoulder and managing pain if it is a minor tear.

Anti-inflammatory medicines may be used to help relieve the pain. They are available over the counter or when prescribed by a doctor. Ice may also be of benefit as another form of relief.

If the pain becomes unbearable, the injury does not get better, or you are an athlete looking to return to the sport, a surgery to repair the torn labrum may be required and usually has a high success rate of returning to the sport.

Nonsurgical treatments

Suspension of intense hand activities.

Since SLAP is mostly experienced by athletes who engage in over-head hand movement activities like baseball, eliminating or modifying these activities can be the first step to recovery.

A physiotherapist can prescribe specific exercises that will provide strength to the shoulder muscles to improve the motion of the shoulder. This program can take up to six months to complete.

SLAP Tear Surgery

The most common surgical procedure is the Arthroscopic surgery. The surgeon checks the biceps tendon and the overall integrity of shoulder joint during the procedure. Small incisions are made instead of large ones which helps reduce the time for healing. It is a better alternative since patients experience less swelling and healing faster compared to surgeries that involve large incisions.

Prevention

As an athlete, it is difficult to avoid this injury as many factors can affect developing a SLAP tear. Having proper technique is key to preventing this injury in sporting and work populations. Having adequate strength as well can help ensure the muscles and tendons involved in this injury (the biceps brachii tendon) is sufficient to perform its role.

How long till I get better

Repairing of a SLAP lesion takes time. Modifying your workload and avoiding activities that will aggravate your condition will ensure healing occurs in an optimal time frame. True recovery happens after three months because any small strain on your shoulder will cause setbacks in your recovery. Ensure that you take care of your shoulder by resting it in one position that won’t aggravate it and avoid overhead injuries or lifting extremely heavy objects to allow time for the injury to heal adequately.

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