The human body contains many different types of articulating joints that bring bones together and allow movement. The only ball-and-socket joints are found in your shoulders and hips, and a key component of this type of joint is the labrum, which helps to keep the ball inside the socket. When this soft tissue tears, it can lead to pain and instability in your hip or shoulder.
The makings of shoulder labrum tears
Your shoulders are joints that connect your shoulder blade (scapula), collarbone (clavicle), and upper arm bone (radius). To form the ball and socket, the top end of your radius features a humeral head that rests inside a socket in your shoulder blade called your glenoid.
Your shoulders are inherently unstable joints, as the socket isn’t all that deep, which is what allows you to enjoy such a wide range of motion in your arms. While the glenoid itself is shallow, it features a ring of cartilage that adds depth to the socket (by up to 50%), which is called the labrum.
There are two ways most people develop labrum tears in their shoulders:
- Repetitive motions, such as those that pitchers or painters make with their arms
- Acute trauma
By acute trauma, we mean an accident in which you may have landed on an outstretched arm or you receive a direct hit to your shoulder. You can also tear your labrum by exerting too much pressure on the tissue, such as when you try to lift something very heavy.
The symptoms of a shoulder labrum tear typically include pain with certain movements, decreased range of motion, and joint instability, which can lead to dislocations.
How hip labrum tears develop
As ball-and-socket joints that connect your pelvis to your upper leg bone (femur), your hips also contain labral tissue that lines the sockets on either side of your pelvis. These sockets are called acetabulums, and they rely on labral tissue to keep the femoral head firmly in place and your femoral heads moving smoothly inside the sockets.
There are several ways this tissue can be damaged, including:
- Structural issues, such as femoroacetabular impingement in which your femoral head doesn’t fit into your socket correctly
- Degenerative conditions, such as osteoarthritis
- Trauma to your hip
The symptoms of a labrum tear in your hip mirror those of shoulder labrum tears and include pain, stiffness, and instability.
Treating labrum tears
Whether you have a shoulder or hip labrum tear, our team has found great success in treating the damaged tissue through regenerative medicine. Your labrums are made out of cartilage, which doesn’t enjoy good vascularization, so this tissue doesn’t have access to the resources it needs to repair and rebuild itself.
Should regenerative medicine and other conservative measures prove ineffective, our team includes an orthopedic surgeon with extensive experience using arthroscopy to diagnose and treat labral tears. Using a tiny camera and specialized instruments, he makes very small incisions, through which he can better visualize the labral damage and make the necessary repairs.
If you suspect you have a labrum tear in your shoulder or hip, the first step is to make an appointment at our office in Westfield or West Orange, New Jersey, so that we can get you on the road to better joint health.