What are the signs and symptoms of a labral tear?

The primary symptom of a labral tear that is not associated with instability is pain in the area of the injury. Patients often say:

  • the pain is located at the back on top of the shoulder or in the front on top of the shoulder.
  • the pain feels like it is deep inside.
  • palpation (pressing) on the shoulder does not duplicate the pain that they have.


  • Labral tears that involve the biceps tendon (SLAP tears) can make using the biceps tendon painful. Overhead activity with inward rotation of the shoulder (which occurs when pitching or serving a tennis ball) causes pain. In addition, using a tool like a screwdriver can cause pain because the biceps is the primary muscle used for this motion.

    Patients with labral tears from internal impingement (a pinching of the soft tissues) will complain that they have pain with throwing. Usually the pain is worst when the arm changes direction from late cocking to forward acceleration. In the shoulder, this pain is located posterior (behind) and superior (above). If there is a related partial thickness rotator cuff tear, there may also be lateral (on the side) pain.

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