Shoulder Pain Could Signal Need For Surgery

Replacement surgery improves quality of life for many

One of the joys of summer is the opportunity for more physical activity, such as sports and gardening.’ However, for some people, increased activity can aggravate shoulder pain and even cause injury without the proper precautions. When the shoulder pain doesn’t go away, one of the solutions people turn to for relief is surgery.

In 1990, approximately 8,000 shoulder replacements were performed in the United States while last year this number had risen to 55,130, according to a survey conducted by the Millennium Research Group. The survey also found that the number of shoulder replacement surgeries in the nation’s hospitals increased nine percent from 2006 to 2007.

The typical shoulder replacement surgery patient is at least 50 years old and has arthritis. Sometimes they have experienced a rotator cuff tear or have a history of shoulder trauma. Taking on repetitive physical activities such as tennis, golf or gardening without proper precautions can aggravate shoulder pain.

Peter C. Theut, MD, a surgeon with Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids and Orthopedic Associates of Michigan, performs numerous shoulder replacement surgeries each year. Spectrum Health consistently performs more inpatient shoulder surgeries than any other hospital in West Michigan.

“Shoulder replacement surgery, total or partial, is one option to relieve shoulder pain,” Theut said.’ “The surgery is meant to relieve pain and restore function, not to enable a patient to throw a fastball.”

Theut advises his patients to take several precautions before participating in any strenuous activities:

  • Do simple warm up stretches.’
  • Use anti-inflammatory medications that can relieve minor pain.
  • Try ice packs for simple aggravated injuries.

According to Theut, physical therapy has also helped many patients avoid surgery. Shoulder replacement surgery should be considered when patients have tried all of these suggestions with limited success and severe arthritis is present.

Historically, people who readily considered hip replacement surgery to relieve pain tended to put off shoulder replacement surgery because the pain didn’t interfere with their mobility, Theut explained.

“Hip pain can immobilize a person and it makes the choice to undergo surgery much simpler,” Theut said. “People can tolerate shoulder pain for a long time without taking action. However, if your shoulder pain is impacting your ability to enjoy life, you should talk to your primary care doctor about a possible referral to a shoulder surgeon.”

Spectrum Health is a not-for-profit health system in West Michigan that offers a full continuum of care through its seven hospitals, more than 140 service sites and 560,000-member health plan, Priority Health.’ Spectrum Health’s 14,000 employees, 1,500 medical staff members and 2,000 volunteers are committed to delivering the highest quality care to those in medical need.’ The organization provided $98.6 million in community benefit during its 2007 fiscal year. Spectrum Health has earned nearly 70 national awards during the past 10 years.