As a chiropractor who treats a lot of extremities injuries, I diagnose patients with shoulder labrum defects pretty frequently. The best way to figure out if you’re dealing with a torn shoulder labrum is to see a healthcare provider whether it’s our clinic or an orthopedic clinic. However, there are a few things to look for that can give you a general idea if your shoulder injury is a torn labrum.

Here are 7 signs that you may have a torn shoulder labrum:


  1. Your shoulder is clicking and popping – Clicking and popping is pretty common, and just because you have a noisy shoulder doesn’t mean you have a torn shoulder labrum. However, clicking and popping with a shoulder injury and pain is a common sign that there may be a tear or defect in your shoulder labrum.
  2. You have shoulder pain in the top of your shoulder and in the front, back, or both – Torn shoulder labrum injuries often cause pain in the top of the shoulder. Specific labrum injuries called SLAP tears are cases where the top portion of the shoulder labrum is torn from the front to the back.
  3. Reduced range of motion in your shoulder – If you have trouble bringing your arm over your head to the front or the side this could be a sign of a torn labrum.
  4. Your shoulder feels unstable – The labrum is involved in the stability of your shoulder, so if it’s torn or injured you may feel like your shoulder isn’t strong and stable.
  5. Frequent overhead motion is part of your exercise routine – If you do a lot of overhead motion, such as jerks, snatches, or overhead presses and have pain associated with them you may have an overuse labrum tear or injury.
  6. You fell with an outstretched arm or dislocated your shoulder – Falling and trying to catch yourself with an outstretched hand or dislocating your shoulder can cause traumatic labrum tears or injuries.
  7. You’re 40 or older – Labrum tears can be caused by wear and tear, so if you’re over 40 years or age you have a higher risk of tearing your shoulder labrum.

What to do for a torn shoulder labrum

If you read the 7 signs that you may have a torn shoulder labrum and suspect you do, you have a few options. First of all, see a healthcare provider who will do an exam and either confirm or deny your suspicion. I would recommend you see a chiropractor or physical therapist first.

If it’s a labrum injury that can be rehabbed, they will formulate a strategy and you can get to recovering right away. If your chiropractor or physical therapist doesn’t feel like they can rehab you, they will refer you to an orthopedic MD. You could also go to an orthopedic MD right away, but it may delay your rehab process a little or cost a little more. It really comes down to personal choice.

Dry needling may be an option as part of your rehab process. To learn more about dry needling see my content –> Dry Needling for Shoulder Injuries.

Dr. Jason Williams DC is a chiropractic physician practicing at AccessHealth Chiropractic in Cary, NC. He treats neuromusculoskeletal pain and injuries using chiropractic manipulation, dry needling, acupuncture, rehab exercise strategies, and other supportive therapies. Primary areas of focus include back pain, neck pain, muscular pain, extremity pain, and orthopedic injuries. Dr. Williams is experienced in treating athletes, especially those in the CrossFit, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai, and MMA community.

If you’re interested in whether he or another AccessHealth provider can help you, navigate to our contact page or follow this link to request an appointment.