Labrum vs Rotator Cuff Injuries

Georgia Hand, Shoulder, and Elbow

Shoulder pain can be debilitating. Many of us have experienced it or know someone who has. It can make simple tasks feel overly challenging. Perhaps you are in this situation right now. If so, you may find comfort in knowing that a shoulder injury is quite common.
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Two of the most common injuries involve your labrum and your rotator cuff.

At Georgia Hand, Shoulder & Elbow, located in Atlanta and Marietta, GA, we specialize in treating shoulder injuries, including labrum tears and rotator cuff injuries. Contact our specialists today, as our goal is to provide high-quality care to everyone. First, though, let’s answer some of the questions that may be on your mind.

What Is a Labrum?

Your labrum is a protective cuff-shaped rim of cartilage that reinforces the ball-and-socket joint within your shoulder. Your labrum also supports the muscles and tendons found in your rotator cuff. In doing so, it allows you to have a full range of motion and provides stability and cushioning for your shoulder.

What Is a Rotator Cuff?

Your rotator cuff is a group of tendons and muscles that work together to support and anchor your shoulder joint in place while allowing you to move your arm and shoulder.

Causes and Risk Factors of a Labrum Tear

Injury and overuse from repetitive motions are two leading causes of labrum tearing. This tearing can result in pain and “catching” of your joint while you move.

Having a degenerative condition such as osteoarthritis can make you more susceptible to having a labrum tear. Additionally, athletes who participate in sports involving repetitive shoulder movement are also at a higher risk for labrum tears. Some of these sports include:

  • Golf
  • Baseball
  • Tennis

 

Causes and Risk Factors of a Rotator Cuff Injury

Progressive overuse or a blunt injury can cause the muscles and tendons in your rotator cuff to tear, resulting in weakness, inflammation, and pain.

Many things can contribute to damaging your rotator cuff. Some of these risk factors include:

  • Your Age—Due to degeneration, our rotator cuffs worsen with age as our muscles and tendons become weaker. Rotator cuff injuries commonly occur in people older than 60.
  • Your Occupation—Some work assignments require repetitive, overhead arm motions. Continually doing these movements can gradually damage your rotator cuff.
  • Sports—Some sports require you to repetitively use your arms, such as basketball, golf, tennis, and baseball. Although rotator cuff injuries are more common in people who play these sports, they can happen while playing other sports as well.
  • Genetic Makeup and Family History—Being susceptible to rotator cuff injuries can be hereditary. If your family has a history of rotator cuff tears, then you may have a higher risk of having a rotator cuff injury.

 

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of a Labrum Tear and a Rotator Cuff Injury?

While both injuries can cause shoulder pain, they have different signs and symptoms that you may want to take note of. These signs and symptoms can be found below.

Rotator Cuff Injury Signs and Symptoms:

  • Swelling
  • Sharp pain when you raise/lower your arm or reach behind your back
  • Loss of strength and mobility
  • Grinding/popping sound when raising your arm
  • Stiffness
  • Difficulty sleeping due to pain
  • Pain when lifting heavy objects

 

Labrum Tear Signs and Symptoms:

  • Shoulder dislocation
  • Shoulder instability
  • Pain and loss of strength
  • Occasional night pain
  • Catching, locking, or popping
  • Your range of motion has decreased

 

How Are Labrum Tears and Rotator Cuff Injuries Diagnosed?

First, your specialist will review your medical history and complete a full physical exam. An x-ray or MRI may be required. These images will ensure that an accurate diagnosis is made and that an individualized treatment plan can be created for you.

Treatment Options for Rotator Cuff and Labral Injuries

While treatment options will vary depending on the severity of your symptoms, non-invasive treatment options are available. We strive to ensure that your treatment is as minimally-invasive as possible before recommending surgery. 

Non-invasive treatment options for rotator cuff and labral injuries include the following:

 

If your injury does not respond to noninvasive treatment or is badly damaged, your specialist may recommend arthroscopic surgery.

Whether you are experiencing pain from a rotator cuff injury or a labrum tear, both require treatment. Our specialists at Georgia Hand, Shoulder & Elbow can assist you. To make an appointment with one of our offices in Atlanta and Marietta, GA, or if you would like more information, be sure to contact us today.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Harlan Starr, MD