(732) 352-9270



SLAP tear vs. rotator cuff tear: What’s the difference and how do you tell which one you have?

Have you recently experienced a tear in your shoulder but you’re not quite sure what kind of tear it is? You’ve come to the right place. It can be tricky to tell the difference, but we may be able to help.

If you want to know how to tell the difference between a SLAP tear and a rotator cuff tear and how you can treat each, keep reading below. 

What’s the difference between a SLAP tear and a rotator cuff tear?

  • SLAP tear — A superior labrum, anterior to posterior (SLAP) tear is a tear that occurs in the glenoid labrum of the shoulder. Labrum tears account for about 8% of all shoulder injuries.
  • Rotator cuff tear — The rotator cuff is located in the shoulder and is responsible for helping you move your shoulder up, down, and from side to side. When the rotator cuff is torn, the tendon is torn off the arm bone. These types of tears are categorized as partial or complete tears.

How can you tell whether you’re dealing with a SLAP tear or a rotator cuff tear?

One way that you can tell whether you’re dealing with a SLAP tear or a rotator cuff tear is through certain symptoms. Rotator cuff tears will often cause pain and discomfort while sleeping, which isn’t as common for those with SLAP tears. The reason they’re more likely to cause pain at night is that they’re often considered overall more painful and intense to experience than a SLAP tear.

What are the causes of SLAP tears vs. rotator cuff tears?

  • Overuse — One of the most common causes of both SLAP tears and rotator cuff tears is overuse. Overuse injuries can be brought on by repetitive motions like those performed during sports activities and certain occupations that require repetitive motion.
  • Aging — Another cause of both SLAP tears and rotator cuff tears is aging. The tendons and labrum can wear down over time, becoming more weak and prone to injury.
  • Traumatic injury — Both SLAP tears and rotator cuff tears can be brought on by sudden, traumatic injury. This type of injuries can often be caused by moving the wrong way or from excess pressure, like at sporting events or car accidents.
  • Bone spurs — Bone spurs can grow on the shoulder, and can rub against the rotator cuff tendons and the bone in the shoulder, eventually causing a tear and significant pain and discomfort.

What are the treatment options for SLAP tears vs. rotator cuff tears?

  • Physical therapy — Physical therapy is a good treatment option for both SLAP tears and rotator cuff tears. It can help provide patients with gentle, controlled exercises to keep the shoulder mobile without aggravating it. Physical therapy can be used to build muscle strength and improve flexibility to protect the shoulder from future injury. It can also help ensure that the shoulder doesn’t heal improperly and that the buildup of scar tissue doesn’t impair mobility. 
  • Rest — One way to make sure that your tear can heal properly is by giving it plenty of time to rest. This applies to both SLAP tears and rotator cuff tears. Constant movement may aggravate your injury and can make the injury worse or prevent it from healing as it should.
  • Surgery — Depending on the severity of the tear, a surgical procedure might be recommended to repair the SLAP tear or rotator cuff tear. Surgical procedures may be necessary to help restore the use of the shoulder with ample flexibility and range of motion. It can also be used to help relieve pain if more conservative treatments don’t bring the desired results.

Arrow PTR is ready to help you find top-notch PT for SLAP tears or rotator cuff tears

At Arrow Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation, we’re known for providing premier outpatient rehabilitation in the state of New Jersey. We strive to guide our patients every step of the way until they reach their unique goals. Like an arrow, our team will put you on the right path toward your desired outcome. Interested in experiencing the Arrow Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation difference? We offer free screenings to first-time patients.

Interested in visiting one of our facilities? Each one has accommodating hours, private rooms for treatment, and a variety of up-to-date exercise technology. Check out which of our several locations is closest to you.

Is one of our locations a little further away from you than you’d like? Do you prefer virtual sessions as opposed to in-person sessions? No worries, we provide affordable virtual physical therapy sessions, too. 

Contact our team today so we can help you find the most effective physical therapy services for your injury or condition.

For more information, Contact Us Today.

Latest Blogs

Five causes of wrist pain when bending the wrist

Five causes of wrist pain when bending the wrist

We often take our wrists for granted until they start to hurt. However, this joint is vital to most of the movements we do with our hands and fingers. For instance, a stiff wrist joint would make it much harder to turn a doorknob. It’s just these kinds of normal daily...

How long does it take for pinched nerve-related numbness to go away?

How long does it take for pinched nerve-related numbness to go away?

Pinched nerves are a fairly common condition. They can appear on several points of the body, including legs and back. They typically occur where too much pressure is being applied to the tissue around the nerve. Often, this pressure can cause pain, tingling and even...