What Is A Shoulder SLAP Tear, The Signs To Look Out For & Treatment Options

The shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint that is highly flexible and gives you the mobility to complete daily activities and take part in sports or exercises. However, it can be susceptible to injuries too and one of them is the shoulder SLAP tear


It is said that 25% of adults deal with shoulder pain due to injury or overuse in their lifetime, and SLAP tears represent 4% to 8% of these shoulder injuries. 

Hence, we will be sharing more about what a shoulder SLAP tear is, the signs you need to look out for and the treatment options available in Singapore so you can seek medical assistance as soon as possible. 

Read on to find out more.

What is a shoulder SLAP tear?

It is also known as a shoulder labral tear and the term “SLAP” refers to Superior Labrum Anterior and Posterior. When you suffer a SLAP tear, the superior portion of the labrum (the ring of cartilage surrounding the shoulder joint socket) gets injured. The tear can occur on both the front (anterior) and back (posterior), which explains the name of the condition. 

A shoulder SLAP tear can be caused by an acute injury, such as falling onto an outstretched arm, or due to overuse from repetitive shoulder motion while playing overhead sports, such as tennis, swimming, lifting weights, and baseball. However, SLAP tears can also be found in older patients whose labrum had worn down over time as they age. 

What are the symptoms of a shoulder SLAP tear?

As SLAP tears are not always caused by an acute injury and can be caused by overuse, it is important to take note of the symptoms since they may not always show up immediately following activity. 

The most common symptoms include:

  • Pain when moving the shoulder or when holding certain positions
  • Pain when lifting objects, especially when lifting them above the head
  • A locking, popping, catching or grinding sensation in the shoulder
  • A decrease in shoulder strength
  • A decrease in range of motion

What are the treatment options available in Singapore?

an orthopaedic doctor in singapore checking a patient

An orthopaedic doctor in Singapore will usually recommend non-surgical treatment methods first. They include taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications to reduce any pain and swelling, and going through physical therapy to restore strength in your shoulder and improve flexibility. 

If these non-surgical treatments prove to be ineffective, your orthopaedic doctor may then suggest surgery. Surgery for a labral tear involves using arthroscopy, a technique in which small incisions are made to allow the insertion of miniature surgical instruments. Any inflamed tissue will be removed during the procedure, followed by reattaching the torn labrum to the rim of the socket. 

Most patients recover well after surgery as only small incisions are made. After rehabilitation, patients experience less pain and improved shoulder strength, allowing them to return to sports. Therefore, seeking prompt medical attention is essential to prevent chronic stiffness, pain and weakness that can affect your daily life. 

If you suspect you have suffered a shoulder SLAP tear, we recommend reaching out to us soon for an accurate diagnosis and suitable treatment. 

Our orthopaedic doctor, Dr Poh, will get you back to doing what you love. 

Contact us today!