You probably do not usually realize how much work your shoulder does every day until it starts to become painful. Severe shoulder pain can severely limit your life. It can lead to restricted movement and make it difficult to do even normal daily activities. When pain becomes severe and constant, you may start to wonder if the only solution is surgery.
Defaulting to surgery may make sense, but it is not always the best solution. In fact, doctors often look to other remedies and treatments before scheduling you to go under the knife. It all depends on the type of pain and the cause of your pain as to whether you are a good candidate for surgery or if another treatment option would serve you better.
Find out more about should pain and how to know if shoulder surgery is the best solution. Discover alternative treatment options that could be a better choice, along with learning more about why your shoulder may be hurting in the first place.
What Causes Shoulder Pain?
Your shoulder is designed to be incredibly flexible. However, it is also not the most stable joint in your body. It allows for a very wide range of motion, which means that it has to be much looser than other joints such as your knee or elbow. This increased range of motion makes it more vulnerable to injury and wear. There are also some genetic issues that can cause shoulder pain.
A healthy shoulder provides a smooth area where the bone in the upper arm, the shoulder blade and the collarbone meet. It allows for the smooth movement of the arm. A healthy shoulder has plenty of cartilage and membrane that lubricate the joint and allow for normal movement with barely any friction.
Injuries are a common reason why shoulder joints fail or become defective. Injuries can include anything from overuse, to strain, to a break in one of the connecting bones. Osteoarthritis is a condition caused by overuse and is a common issue in the shoulder. It occurs when the cartilage and membrane wear away, allowing the bones to rub together.
Different types of arthritis also can cause shoulder pain. This includes rheumatoid arthritis. Another condition that can cause pain is avascular necrosis. This causes blood flow to the bones to be limited and kills bone cells.
When Is Surgery the Best Option?
Your doctor will carefully review your case to determine if you are a good candidate for surgery. Typically, avoiding surgical intervention is ideal if possible. However, there are some signs that you need surgery that your doctor will look for. These include the following:
Typically, if you have any of these issues, your doctor will recommend that you schedule surgery. However, not all shoulder surgeries are the same.
What Types of Surgery Are Available?
There are minimally invasive shoulder surgery options and others that are a major surgical event. What type of surgery your doctor recommends relies on what issues you have in your shoulder that are leading to the pain.
Microscopic surgery can be used to reshape the joint and remove excess bone growth if this is your issue. This surgery requires only small cuts and often allows for fast healing. You can usually regain the use of your shoulder very quickly afterwards.
Another option is a total shoulder replacement. This involves replacing the whole joint, ball and socket. Typically, you will not have this type of surgery unless there is no cartilage remaining in the joint. It also works best if your rotator cuff is in good condition.
Finally, there is reverse total shoulder replacement. This is the most common option if you have had shoulder surgery before or have issues with your rotator cuff. This surgery involves putting in the replacement ball and socket backwards. Instead of attaching the ball to the humerus, it is attached to the shoulder. The socket is then attached to the humerus. This is done to help change the muscle groups used to move your shoulder, which can help return range of motion.
What Is Involved in Shoulder Surgery?
Besides a microscopic surgery, the main steps in any shoulder surgery are the same. The ball and socket are replaced with metal and plastic, respectively. The shoulder area is opened up to allow access to the old joint and the bones that the new parts will be attached to. Resurfacing of the bones is needed to allow for the attachment of the new ball and socket.
It is important to understand that replacement joints do not last forever. They are most likely to last about 10 years although some may last longer, up to 20 years, depending on the materials.
Recovery is also a long process after a full joint replacement. It generally will take at least three months to return to normal activities and regain range of motion. This will require regular therapy sessions to work the new joint. However, pain from injury is usually relieved right after surgery. There will be some pain resulting from the surgery itself, obviously, but once that is healed you should not feel the normal pain you felt from your joint.
After surgery you will have to take pain medications and antibiotics to help prevent infection. Your new joint is susceptible to injury and failure just as your original one was, so your recovery will have to be taken slowly. You will probably stay in the hospital for a few days. Then you will begin physical therapy. You will probably have limitations on how much you can lift and the range of motion in your shoulder for some time after surgery, usually six weeks. It will usually take about two years for the full recovery to take place, though. This means that you should have full range of motion and be completely free from pain two years after the surgery.
What Are the Non-Surgical Treatment Options?
Of course, surgery is not always the best option for everyone. Your doctor may suggest alternative therapies and treatments. Surgery is often reserved only for severe cases. Instead, your doctor may recommend the following:
Non-surgical treatments may also be used for people who are not able to get surgery due to other health issues. Some doctors may try these options to help relieve pain before surgery, which may allow you to see if eliminating the pain is all you need to feel better. In some cases, people may opt out of surgery and just use medications to treat their shoulder pain issues.
There is some concern about delaying surgery and using these other options. Some people would rather have a surgery than try physical therapy first. However, even if you get the surgery, you will have to have physical therapy to regain your range of motion. By trying physical therapy first, you may find that it helps your condition and you do not need surgery after all.
Some doctors will always advise alternative treatments instead of surgery at first. This will allow you to see if these options will help or fix your issues before going through the hassle of surgery. You will save time and money if these options work. You can always get surgery later, so it is well worth it to check out your alternative options before scheduling a surgery.
The Last Word
Shoulder pain is something that many people live with. It can be so debilitating that you cannot brush your teeth or get dressed without experiencing terrible pain. When your shoulder gets to this point, you will probably do anything for relief. Most people immediately begin thinking of surgery. However, your doctor will probably advise alternative treatment options.
Trying medications or exercise can help bring you much needed relief. Sometimes these alternative treatments can help you enough that you can avoid having to have shoulder surgery. Additionally, you will find that it takes far less time to commit to these treatments than it does to recover from surgery. They are also less expensive and much easier in the long run to commit to and do than surgery.
Some people, though, feel that surgery is the only answer. Your doctor may agree, especially if you have total loss of the cartilage in your shoulder or if your range of motion is severely limited. Sometimes surgery is the best treatment option. However, this is something to discuss with your doctor. He or she is the best at assessing your situation and determining which course of treatment will work best for you. Always heed your doctor's advice because it is likely to be the best solution.