“Arthroscopic surgery is the only solution for labral tears,” is scary and bad advice. The worst part? This is not backed up by research.

Labral tears in the shoulder, otherwise known as slap tears, are common injuries to the shoulder. So, what is the “labrum?” The labrum is a piece of cartilage that attaches in the shoulder socket make it deeper. This provides stability to the shoulder joint to prevent dislocations. The labrum also acts to cushion the tendons around the shoulder and allow the shoulder to have a large range of motion.

When do labral tears occur?

These tears occur most often in overhead athletes, such as tennis players or swimmers. They ABSOLUTLEY can be treated with physical therapy and conservative treatment. SOME cases will require surgery, but definitely not as the ONLY SOLUTION for everyone!

They can also occur from falls onto the shoulder or repetitive activities to the shoulder. Manual labor requiring swinging of a hammer or axe is a common cause of labral tears.

Usually, they present as shoulder pain. The shoulder may also present as “unstable.” In severe cases, it can result in shoulder dislocation.


  • you have pain over the top of the shoulder
  • you have “popping” or “clunking” or “catching” of the shoulder joint
  • shoulder weakness on one side
  • a sensation that your shoulder will just “pop out of place”
3 images side by side showing the shoulder joint with where the labrum is, a close picture of the shoulder labrum, and a 3rd picture showing a labral tear.
Image showing the shoulder, the location of the labrum, and labral tears in the shoulder joint.

Now, why was “surgery only for labral tears” bad advice?

Research has shown that in MANY cases- sham surgery yields the same results as labral surgery in follow up.

So WHY would you get labral surgery, if it is going to have no long term solution or even BENEFIT to the shoulder?!

This being said, there MUST be other options for shoulder labral tears besides surgery. What are they?

Many listed treatments for shoulder labral tears are: ice, heat, and physical therapy. Physical therapy will include:

  • education and understanding about the injury
  • stretching tight muscles surrounding the shoulder
  • strengthening the surrounding muscles to decrease stress on the labrum and allow healing
  • postural advice to keep pressure off the labrum
  • manual therapy- hands on treatment to get the shoulder moving properly

What to do if someone tells me “surgery is my only option for my shoulder labral tear?”

SHORT AND SWEET: get a second opinion from a qualified conservative management doctor (physical therapist, chiropractor, etc). 

Make sure you have a GOOD EXAM performed and have TRIED conservative management first. 

You can always schedule a FREE DISCOVERY VISIT with us from our website home page: https://impulsechiropractic.net/ or schedule a call with us at this link: https://link.drjustinrabinowitz.com/widget/appointment/book_a_call_impulse/discovery_call.

In summary, surgery is most definitely NOT the only answer to shoulder labral surgery and, in fact, is only useful in more severe cases.

I hope this helped you learn today and you can pass along this message to someone with labral tears in their shoulder!