You’ve reached the point where you have hard time putting on a shirt and pulling it over your head without pain. It’s time to see the doctor but at what point from diagnosis is it necessary to have shoulder surgery to repair your shoulder?
Firstly, it depends on the diagnosis. If you’ve got arthritis, you may just get by with taking over-the-counter pain relievers and calling it a day. Surgery is likely going to become necessary as you begin to lose range of motion. Range of motion refers to your ability to move your arm up and down, forward and backward. It is natural to lose some range of motion as we age, but when you lose so much that you can’t lift your arms over your head, or reach out in front of yourself, it may be time to think about surgical repair.
Your doctor can help you make this decision, usually based on x-rays and MRI scans. X-rays can rule out broken bones and other issues that involve the bone. MRI scans are done to specifically detect soft-tissue damage, as in the case with rotator cuff tears. When it comes to a torn rotator cuff, surgery is necessary to re-attach the ligament to the bone and is typically done arthroscopically.
The pain from shoulder surgery is minimal and most patients recover with no issues. The challenge for most patients is that immobilization of the shoulder is required for most shoulder surgeries. The extent of damage and repair needed is what dictates the time in an arm sling. Rotator cuff repair, for example, might require several weeks in a sling and it is imperative that you keep your arm immobile while it heals. Doing too much too soon can damage the repair and leave you back at square one. Many people attempt to do too much with a repaired shoulder.
Physical therapy may be the only requirement that you need for recovery, or it may be required after surgery, to help you regain your range of motion and prevent the development of scar tissue. Stretching and slow exercises are designed to begin introducing your shoulder back to moving and stretching. You’ll be limited in what you can lift and the more you adhere to the instructions given by your doctor, the more likely you’ll have a positive outcome and full recovery.
While most shoulder repairs are done arthroscopically, which is minimally invasive surgery, some cases do require a small incision to do more extensive repairs. In some cases, the bone is sheered to make more room to keep your shoulder from being impinged, pinching muscle and tendon as you lift over your head.
It starts with an evaluation, diagnostic testing and imaging which may include x-rays and MRI. Your specialist will speak to you about options and their recommendations. If surgery is needed, you will be able to schedule it and your doctor will go over a plan for your full recovery and rehabilitation, including work limitations during that time.
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To schedule an appointment with one our specialists, contact our scheduling department at 972-250-5700 or request an appointment online.
POSMC is a full-service medical facility specializing in the evaluation and treatment of orthopedic injuries. The practice is led by a group of 12 board-certified and fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeons and a physical medicine and rehabilitation physician. Contact us today!