SLAP lesions & Glenoid Labrum Injuries

Your shoulder joint is a ball and socket joint. The head of your upper arm bone fits into a rounded socket in your shoulder blade. This socket is called the glenoid fossa. Surrounding the outside edge of the glenoid is a rim of strong, fibrous tissue called the labrum. The labrum is a strong, fibrous, soft tissue that serves to deepen the “socket” component of the “ball & socket” joint that is your shoulder. It also serves as an attachment point for many of the ligaments of the shoulder, as well as one of the tendons from the biceps muscle in the arm. The bony component of the shoulder “socket” is quite shallow, which means the labrum, with it’s soft tissue characteristics, forms a flexible, yet stable base for our shoulder joint.  It’s a good thing that our shoulders evolved this way- it allows our shoulder joints to move through a remarkable range of motion in many different planes.

A downside of this mobility, is of course, the tendency for injury to occur to structures within the shoulder. The labrum is commonly in injured, either by way of an acute / traumatic event, or by a wear and tear process over time.


A SLAP lesion is a particular type of injury to the labrum. A SLAP lesion simply stands for Superior Labrum Anterior Posterior. It is a reference to which particular part of the labrum is injured. In a SLAP lesion, the top part of the labrum is injured, usually in association with injury to the long head of biceps tendon, which originates from this region of the labrum.

Common symptoms include:

  • A sensation of locking, popping, catching, or grinding
  • Pain with movement of the shoulder or with holding the shoulder in specific positions
  • Pain with lifting objects, particularly overhead activities
  • A sense of weakness in the shoulder or arm
  • A feeling that the shoulder might “pop out of joint”
  • Decreased range of motion

We note that these symptoms may be present for other types of shoulder injury too. The most definitive way to diagnose a labrum injury is to have an MRI.

Treatment for SLAP lesions specifically, or glenoid labrum injuries generally may require surgical intervention. Most often, your healthcare provider will opt for non-surgical interventions such as Physiotherapy. If symptoms and / or functional limitations persist despite exhaustive attempts to rehabilitate the shoulder non-operatively, the decision will likely be made to have surgery.

Non operative treatment is typically comprised of a combination of manual therapy interventions, exercise prescription for strength, coordination and range of movement, and occasionally medication in the form or tablets or injection.

If you’re reading this because you suspect you have a labrum injury, but you have not yet consulted with any doctor or physio, please give us a call on 9665 9667. We can discuss your symptoms over the phone and determine whether it makes sense to come in for a consultation. It may be appropriate to simply give your shoulder a rest for some time. Or you may require referral to a surgeon or specialist for assessment.

If you have a confirmed labrum injury and are looking to rehabilitate it with Physiotherapy, please give us a call on 9665 9667 to organise an initial consultation and to set your rehabilitation program up.