By: Michael Pahl, M.D., Orthopedic Surgeon, MemorialCare Joint Replacement Center, Long Beach Medical Center
The shoulder is the most flexible joint in the body, it allows you to move your arm in various positions. The complex anatomy that allows this motion can lead to many different types of pain and injuries. Over time many people will experience pain or stiffness in their shoulder due to arthritis or injury.
Shoulder pain is extremely common, affecting one out of every five people every year. Take note of where you feel pain in your shoulder and when you are experiencing it. This information will help your doctor diagnose your shoulder injury/condition.
Constant pain can correlate with a shoulder condition, such as frozen shoulder, a condition that limits how much your joint will move because tissue has built up in the joint. Other injuries, such as a rotator cuff tear can injure the tendon that surrounds the shoulder joint and can be painful while performing certain activities that require lifting your arm, or even just sleeping.
While many shoulder injuries/conditions are less serious than others and do not require invasive treatment, it’s important to assess the severity of your symptoms. Common signs and symptoms that could indicate you need surgery are:
- Pain that doesn’t improve after nonsurgical, or conservative, treatments including ice, heat, pain medicine, injections, physical therapy or activity modification
- Symptoms that have lasted at least six months
- Significant weakness and loss of function in the shoulder
- An injury that occurred suddenly during an activity
- A large rotator cuff tear greater than 3 cm
- Shoulder pain than occurs at night or while resting
- Inability to raise the arm
- Swelling or significant bruising around the joint or arm
- Signs of infection, including fever, redness and warmth
While the idea of surgery can be scary, there are many advancements in technology that have improved shoulder surgery outcomes and improve quality of life. Common shoulder procedures are:
- Rotator cuff repairs: Surgeons identify the damaged part of the rotator cuff and clean and reattach any torn or damaged tendons.
- Shoulder dislocation surgery: Typically dislocations are treated with therapy, however in rare cases, stabilization surgery may be considered.
- Shoulder replacement: Typically used to treat advanced osteoarthritis of the shoulder joint, this procedure replaces the ball and socket joint with an artificial ball made of metal and a socket made of plastic.
If shoulder pain is limiting your quality of life or preventing you from getting healthy sleep you should consider a consult with an orthopedic surgeon to learn more about treatment options. For more information on shoulder surgery, call 800-MEMORIAL or visit memorialcare.org/shoulderreplacement.
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