Some people accept shoulder pain as a part of life. For many, it's considered chronic pain that comes with getting older. However, today's shoulder pain treatments mean those same people don't have to suffer.
Rotator Cuff Injuries
Rotator cuff injuries are a common source of shoulder pain. The so-called rotator cuff is actually a collective name for the three main tendons of the muscles that lift the arm up. Many times, an injury such as a tear to the rotator cuff can be repaired using an arthroscope, which is essentially a tiny telescope. Four, less-than-half-inch incisions enables the orthopedic surgeon to use the arthroscope and extremely small instruments to enter the joint and make repairs. Fiber optic lighting illuminates the cavity so the surgeon can see the affected area.
Impingement syndrome, sometimes called swimmer's shoulder, is another common cause of shoulder pain. Impingement is essentially a mechanical rub caused by a bone spur beneath a portion of the shoulder blade. Every time patients lift their arms, the rotator cuff tendons are pinched, which causes pain. Removing the spur arthroscopically is a simple procedure requiring a relatively short recovery time. Arthritis is the most common of several conditions that cause the kind of shoulder pain and disability that may be best resolved with a total shoulder replacement.
The improvements in the biomechanical designs of today's replacement shoulders offer far superior solutions to replacements of the past. Every person's situation is different, so don't be deterred by second- and third-hand stories of unsuccessful treatment. Unlike arthroscopic surgery, which is performed on an outpatient basis, total shoulder replacements usually require a two-day hospital stay. We also do things to minimize post-operative pain so patients can sleep comfortably the night of the surgery. Oral analgesics are prescribed for pain control during healing.
Prior to recommending any elective surgery, we exhaust other means of providing pain relief. Sometimes patients benefit from anti-inflammatory medications and physical therapy. If these prove to be ineffective, surgery may be the next best option.
Depending on its cause, untreated chronic shoulder pain is unlikely to disappear and very likely to get worse. Timely treatment of your pain often improves your results. If you've been suffering from shoulder pain, discuss your options with an orthopedic specialist. The techniques and devices we use now are so much better than those of the past.
By John B. McClellan, MD, FACS
A Specialty Physicians of Illinois, LLC, orthopedic surgeon who chooses to practice at Franciscan Health Olympia Fields.