T Nation

Torn Labrum, Recovery?


Hi all - got a couple questions for anyone who's gone through a torn labrum/shoulder injury in general

Back in february I tore my labrum playing football (tried to do a 180 by grabbing turf, popped shoulder out, made lovely grinding sound, etc). I saw a doctor a few days later who recommended an arthroscopy, and another who recommended the same. A couple months went by where I was constantly traveling and didn't schedule one. I went to see a third doctor for insurance/experience reasons (first doc was straight out of med school and I'd rather get surgery done by someone who's done it a thousand times, second didn't take my insurance) to get started with the arthroscopy process, and he recommended physical therapy instead. I did PT for about a month, he recommended discontinuing it and trying to go back to regular exercise, slowly.

I went lifting for the first time in a few months today, lighter than I used to. Besides being out of shape, shoulder and bench press went fine, but I tried doing pullups and every time at the bottom of the rep, I could feel something grinding/not-supposed-to-do-that going on. I'm going to see another doc when I can get an appointment, but my questions for you all are:

1) Have you had a torn labrum? Were you able to resolve it with PT? Arthroscopy?

2) How the hell do you stay in shape with a shoulder injury? I've tried running but I get bored out of my mind, and I'm already a hardgainer - I don't want to get smaller, though running beats the hell out of doing nothing.

for background: I'm male, 23, 5'9" usually around 150 (now 140-145). I'm also planning on getting with a trainer when I'm able to start hitting the gym seriously again, since I strongly suspect my old routine (I didn't change anything for a while, and seriously needed to) had something to do with my shoulder injury. For everyday non-lifting use, my shoulder feels and works completely fine. Besides a broken hand five years ago, this is the first injury I've had that's affected my lifting.




With a torn labrum, the best option depends on the location and severity of the tear. If you are able to become asymptomatic with rehab, IMO surgery isn't necessary. If the tear is severe enough, arthroscopy surgery is the best option. Are you having any dislocation/subluxation issues or just that grinding feeling at the bottom of the pull up? Grinding with any other movement?

In terms of staying in shape until you get your second opinion and figure out your course of action, you have one healthy upper extremity limb and your lower body. Single arm rows, bench, OH press, etc with the healthy arm and all the lower body lifts you want will be a nice start.


I tore my labrum doing ju-jitsu and had lots of problems with subluxation and dislocations.

I had the surgery about 3 years ago now and have not had a dislocation or subluxation since, I do however have a very silght reduction in range of motion in my right shoulder.

If you do end up having the surgery the recovery was not as bad as I anticipated. You will lose a fair amount of muscle on the affected arm just due to it being in a sling for a long period. But as long as you are diligent with your physiotherapy you should be back to lifting properly in about 3 - 4 months.


Levelheaded - good advice, until you recommended doing exercises with the unaffected arm. I don't think that'd be appropriate since it would create imbalances.

Aside from that, create yourself a leg specialization program! At 5'9", 140-150 lbs is pretty light. If you take the time now to gain mass in your legs, you'll shoot up in weight and keep in shape.

I'd torn both my labrums at separate times playing football and rugby.

For football, I tore my right labrum. I went to PT (no surgery) for I'd say about 3 months and then was cleared for full contact. 4 months later I began my rugby season with no problem until about another 4 months later when I went to tackle a guy on kickoff and dislocated again. I opted for surgery and was cleared for lifting 3-4 months after, with 100% activity clearance 6 months after surgery.

With the aid of a small velcro shoulder harness, I made it through some of my next rugby season without any problems. Then I dislocated my left shoulder and tore that labrum. Go figure. Bottom line is, without surgery on my right, I lasted for a while but not indefinitely. With surgery on my right, I lasted indefinitely (in theory, I can't be too sure since my season was interrupted by my left shoulder injury, but I'm sure I would have been fine.)

Hope this helped!


Oh and I'm assuming the grinding you hear sounds like celery breaking? This is typical for labrum tears, I wouldn't be concerned.

Also, Limey_Tom is correct. You'll have restricted mobility in the affected shoulder. Unless completely necessary, I wouldn't do any mobility work on it, since the tightness in the shoulder girdle will protect you somewhat from more dislocations.



I am going to have to respectfully disagree with you on that point. IMO, I do not believe that there will be enough time or intensity to create a significant amount of imbalance by training the uninjured limb. First, the amount of time won't allow for it to occur and also the intensity won't be able to be match with only working single extremity work as compared to using both extremities if both were fully functioning. Also, there is a neurological crossover to consider as well. When one extremity is immobilized for whatever reason, if the other extremity is still trained, there is a neurological crossover between extremities and when the immobilized limb is allowed to become mobil again it will return to full function much quicker due to the crossover.

I have personally worked with many athletes returning from extremity immobilizing injuries/surgeries, including ACLR, labrum repair, rotator cuff repair, etc. I have always had them train their uninjured extremity as normal and have not found any case of impairing imbalances. Will the trained arm initially be stronger than the injured arm, yes. But the injured arm will quickly make up that difference, especially as the neurological activity level.


I had a full on SLAP tear from playing football and after two separate 4 months stints of PT and then re-aggravating it from simple repetitive motion i just said the hell with it and had the surgery done. It's been over 3 years since the surgery, and i honestly wish i hadn't wasted close to 1.5 years on PT just to have the surgery done anyways.

The surgeon did the procedure arthroscopically and only left three small incisions in my shoulder. The first few weeks after surgery hurt like a bitch but in the end it was well worth the pain and close to a year to recover fully.