When is it time for surgery for shoulder pain?

Posted on Jan 27, 2020, by

When shoulder pain restricts the basic tasks of life like reaching for the top shelf, drying your hair or carrying children around, life becomes hard.

Whether you’re suffering from arthritis, a cartilage disorder or you’re experiencing the general wear and tear that comes with age, it could be time to consider surgery instead of the daily dose of pain reliever. In addition, there are some injuries, like a rotator cuff tear, that may require immediate attention.

The Kennedy Center specializes in many types of shoulder procedures.  Most of these surgeries are done using arthroscopic surgery, a minimally invasive way to treat painful shoulders. 

Read on for ways to tell it’s time for surgery, and to learn about treatment options the Kennedy Center offers to more effectively relieve shoulder pain.  

Causes of shoulder pain

Because the shoulder joint is the only joint in the body that rotates completely, shoulders often begin to wear out with age. Aging, unfortunately, often comes with arthritis.  People at any age can also have shoulder issues because of an accident, a fall, or other injury. The common causes of shoulder pain are:

  • Inflammation (bursitis or tendonitis)
  • Arthritis
  • Instability
  • Fracture, or other injury

Who suffers from shoulder pain?

Anyone can find themselves facing shoulder problems—especially pain from an acute injury such as a fracture caused by an accident or a fall. 

Those most likely to experience shoulder pain though are people over 40. That’s because with time and activity bones and muscles lose mass, cartilage and tendons start losing cushion, and ligaments become less elastic. This leads to wear and tear and the increased likelihood of injuries.

Common shoulder conditions

Rotator cuff tears are one of the most common shoulder conditions, occurring with and without injury. The rotator cuff, which adds stability to shoulder joints, can wear out over time, which is why it has become a top-five cause of injury in people over 40. 

In the U.S., rotator cuff surgery is performed 460,000 times each year. If you suspect a rotator cuff tear, it’s important to see a surgeon right away. Even though some rotator cuff tears can be treated non-surgically, with periods of rest and ice, if the tear is significant, waiting to see a doctor could cause permanent damage.

Shoulder pain that requires immediate attention

Shoulder pain caused by conditions like arthritis and inflammation can often be treated at home with rest, ice and pain reliever to reduce swelling. Recent information also shows that deep muscle massage can help relax the muscles surrounding the shoulder joints and help reduce pain.

But some conditions call for immediate medical attention. Shoulder dislocations, separations and fractures all require a doctor’s immediate help.

For other issues, watch for:

  • Pain that radiates down through the affected arm
  • Inability to sleep due to shoulder pain
  • Weakness or numbness in the arm
  • Pain during rest or periods of inactivity
  • Inability to lift and reach objects overhead
  • Trouble reaching behind you to get your wallet out of your back pocket
  • Difficulty doing routine activities like washing and combing your hair

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s time to consult an orthopedic expert.

Types of surgery for shoulder pain

Most shoulder surgeries done at the Kennedy Center today are done arthroscopically. This is the least invasive type of surgery which uses small incisions which means less trauma to the surrounding tissue.  

We use arthroscopic surgery for most shoulder repairs. These range from complex surgeries like torn rotator cuffs and shoulder stabilization to less involved procedures like repairing bone spurs, minor tears, and shoulder impingement.

The orthopedic surgeons at the Kennedy Center are highly skilled in arthroscopic shoulder procedures. During shoulder arthroscopy, our board-certified surgeons insert a camera, called an arthroscope, through a small incision in the skin to examine and repair tissues in and around the shoulder joint. This minimally-invasive procedure results in less damage to muscles and tissue which leads to faster healing and recovery.

Here are some of the most common surgical options, performed arthroscopically and through other surgical techniques.

Rotator cuff repair

If a rotator cuff becomes severely damaged, rotator cuff repair is the optimal choice. The procedure is done arthroscopically using an incision less than three inches long to clean and repair the shoulder. While many surgeons still use an ‘open’ surgical technique, the doctors at the Kennedy Center do all rotator cuff repairs arthroscopically.

Shoulder resurfacing

Shoulder resurfacing is a revolutionary option to total shoulder replacements for patients who are in the early stages of arthritis. Because much of the shoulder bone is saved during the procedure patients can continue to live a more active lifestyle post-op than they could with a total shoulder replacement. This surgery also means that patients can still have a total shoulder replacement later in life. 

Hemi (partial) or total shoulder replacement

The most complicated procedure, a total shoulder replacement, can be the most effective option to reduce pain and improve mobility for people with advanced shoulder arthritis.

In addition, many patients are appropriate candidates for same day shoulder replacement surgeries. That means, patients are released from the hospital the same day of the procedure and can recover in the comfort of their own home. 

Benefits of working with the Kennedy Center

While other surgeons are still performing open shoulder surgery, the Kennedy Center is leading the way in arthroscopic shoulder surgery to minimize postoperative pain and recovery time. 

We customize treatment to every patient’s needs—from cleaning bone spurs to repairing rotator cuff and handling partial or total same-day should replacements—we design treatment based on your specific condition and goals for recovery. 

Get relief now

If you’re living with shoulder pain or have questions about shoulder treatment options, contact the experienced team at the Kennedy Center here.










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