Shoulder injuries stink! When I was fifteen my family went to Michigan for Christmas break. It was a fun vacation UNTIL I had a snowmobile mishap. I badly injured my shoulder and it was no fun, especially on the plane ride home. I ended up having arthroscopic surgery a few months later. A couple of years ago my niece also injured her shoulder. Her injury was caused by playing softball, but she ended up having the same surgery as I did years ago. So we now have matching scars that are actually three small circles on the same shoulder. I reached out to Paul Favorito, MD, of The Christ Hospital Physicians – Orthopedics & Sports Medicine to clear up some questions I had about shoulder injuries, surgery and recovery.
Common Shoulder Injuries
Dr. Favorito says that the most common shoulder problems are caused by overuse (work, sports or recreation) or acute injuries, like falls, that result in fractures, dislocations or soft tissue injuries. Additional common shoulder issues include conditions like arthritis, labral tears, tendonitis, bursitis, and rotator cuff tears. There is also a condition called Adhesive Capsulitis (also known as frozen shoulder, a painful condition in which shoulder movement becomes limited related to thickening or inflammation of the shoulder joint's connective tissue). So it makes sense that I injured my shoulder in an accident while my niece injured hers from sports and we both required the same surgery. Sports injuries are a concern for parents and it seems shoulder injuries are common from sports and overuse.
Dr. Favorito gave some suggestions for how to avoid common shoulder injuries. He says stretching and strengthening exercises can help prevent injury as well as using proper technique (throwing, serving, etc.) when involved in a sports activity. After having surgery so many years ago I sometimes will have shoulder pain if I do something new or when I do something like playing tennis after I haven't for a long time. He suggested the best way to ease that pain is ice or to use over the counter medications like Tylenol or topical creams.
Dr. Favorito also says that avoiding too much of the same or similar sports (repetitive movement), especially ones that involve arm movement over the head, can help with avoiding shoulder injury for younger athletes.
When to Seek Medical Attention
My shoulder injury sent me to the doctor right away, but I have friends that have lived with shoulder pain for quite some time. Some of them put off seeing a doctor only to make their injury worse. Dr. Favorito says it is time to seek medical attention if the shoulder pain is impacting your quality of life or interfering with activities of daily living like sleeping, bathing, personal hygiene or dressing.
In terms of treatment, Dr. Favorito says patients have a variety of options for managing a shoulder issue: "option one is to do nothing and accept their shoulder symptoms as is; option two is nonoperative treatment, like physical therapy, injections, medications, or acupuncture. The last option, surgery, depends on the patient, their desires, and how much the symtoms affect their quality of life. We look at all factors together and choose what is ultimately the best option for them."
My niece and I were about the same age when we had our arthroscopic surgery. My surgery was done in the late 80s while hers was just a couple of years ago. Her recovery seemed a lot faster than mine. I asked Dr. Favorito about what people can expect from surgery recovery now. He says "Much less pain than most expect or heard they may have thanks to advanced anesthesia techniques employed by physicians at The Christ Hospital. Depending on the procedure (like shoulder replacements), many patients are only in slings for 10-12 days after surgery and require very little or no narcotic pain medication. Post-operative physical therapy is directed by a physician and provided by experienced physical therapists."
So take my advice, don't mess around with shoulder pain. Dr. Favorito sums it up on why you should seek out help from the shoulder care team at The Christ Hospital. "Our team of specialists includes fellowship-trained, board certified orthopedic physicians with more than two decades of experience. We care for you using some of the most advanced treatments and procedures available today. Our team of orthopedic and sports medicine experts specializes in minimally invasive procedures and rehabilitation to get you back to your life as quickly as possible." For me and my niece, correcting our shoulder problems made a world of difference. Click here for more information about Dr. Favorito and the shoulder care team at The Christ Hospital.
Learn more about Dr. Favorito and shoulder care at The Christ Hospital.