Your shoulder, the most mobile joint in the body, helps you lift, reach, push, pull, and rotate the upper extremity. When an injury or arthritis limits this movement, it can be a painful and incapacitating injury.
Tom Gill, Owner of Tom Gill Chevrolet in Northern Kentucky, and local celebrity, struggled with disabling shoulder arthritis that increasingly affected his quality of life. “I enjoy exercising and weight lifting,” said the energetic 64-year-old. “I love to snow ski and, in the summer, there’s boating, water skiing, and wakeboarding—I’m a very active person.”
As his shoulder discomfort grew, his fondness for physical fitness was no match for the pain. One by one, his activities fell by the wayside.
At age 25, Tom had unbearably painful rotator cuff surgery at another hospital and, 40 years later, this experience proved to be a roadblock to getting treatment. “Oh yeah, it was two or three years before I could wrap my mind around seeking medical attention again for my shoulder.”
Tom knew of a talented orthopedic surgeon, Paul Favorito, MD, board-certified orthopedic surgeon and shoulder specialist at The Christ Hospital, who had treated Tom's wife and younger son for their shoulder ailments. “I’ve known Dr. Favorito for at least ten years, because of my family and their surgeries. I appreciate how he is honest and direct, friendly, and has a great manner of communication.”
Dr. Favorito explained there are basically four aspects to shoulder difficulties: pain, weakness, limited motion, or feeling the shoulder is popping out of place—and all four aspects were a daily frustration for Tom. “The shoulder hurt pretty much all the time,” he said. “Taking a shower, trying to reach for something, and sleeping—they were problematic.”
Recognized as a regional, national, and international shoulder surgeon expert—Dr. Favorito lectures all over the world, has traveled to six continents, and is committed to global education—he explained that the inability to perform fundamental actions because of shoulder arthritis can be disabling. “Imagine that you cannot reach a counter in your kitchen or bathroom or are unable to dress yourself, fi x your hair, or perform basic acts of personal care.”
Encouraged by his family’s experience, Tom scheduled an appointment. When Dr. Favorito saw Tom's shoulder X-rays, he knew it was not a matter of “if surgery is the right approach” but rather a question of when.
“There are basically three options to treat a shoulder,” said Dr. Favorito. “Live with your shoulder the way it is; opt for nonoperative treatment, like physical therapy, injections, or medications; or choose surgery.” The decision depends on the patient, their desires, and the advanced nature of their arthritis. “We look at all factors together and choose what is ultimately the best option for them. I’m a big believer in shared decision making.”
Tom was getting progressively weaker, and he knew it was time to do something. For him, the best option was shoulder replacement surgery, which was performed in October 2020.
Once surgery is chosen, Dr. Favorito’s approach is to educate the patient on what to expect every step of the way, including how to weather “the storm of pain, which is really the first 48-72 hours after shoulder replacement.” He works collaboratively with The Christ Hospital’s anesthesia group. “Their expertise with injections and regional anesthesia means that my patients spend less time under anesthesia, have less soft tissue trauma, and recover faster.”
An advocate of non-narcotic pain relief, Dr. Favorito is a front-runner in using a long-acting local anesthetic injected into the nerves around the neck, which affect the shoulder. “This pain block enables patients to pass the critical post-surgical days in reasonable comfort.”
Tom said all he knows is that he woke up and was pain-free—and that was magical for him.
“This experience was far superior to the one I had 40 years ago, like night and day—and believe me, I was concerned about pain.” When the block wore off, he remained comfortable, and after a few days, he was only taking Tylenol.“I wish I would have had this surgery much sooner.
“From the moment I got to The Christ Hospital, the entire staff was very attentive. The team was accommodating, kind, and caring – it really was a great experience.” He stayed one night and said the private rooms are a bonus. “My window overlooked downtown Cincinnati, and it was an awesome view.”
After ten days, the sling came off, and he started physical therapy. Within a few days, he was putting dishes up on the shelf, a simple task he was unable to do prior to surgery.
“It all went so perfectly. I was so pleased. I was out of the sling in less than two weeks, and, with therapy, I quickly regained my range of motion, strength, and flexibility.” Now he is back to working out and said he feels great. “It’s amazing.”
As a sports medicine fellow, and past team physician for the Cincinnati Bengals, Cincinnati Cyclones, and Cincinnati Swarm, Dr. Favorito sees many patients as referrals. “Often, by the time a patient finds me, they have tried injections, physical therapy, and medications, but there are still many factors when considering the best option for an individual—including a patient’s desire, preferred quality of life, and nature of their injury or arthritis.”
Tom honestly sees no downside. “I have full confidence in Dr. Favorito and, based on my experience, recommended him to several people. If you need surgery, he has the team to help steer you through it all.”
Learn more about shoulder pain care at The Christ Hospital and how our experts can help you or someone you love.