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Surgeon and Author, Dr. Stuart Gold,
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Alternatives to Shoulder Surgery For Patients To Consider

May 26th, 2011

Prior to any surgery, I encourage patients and my colleagues to consider their alternatives. That said, here is some additional information about alternatives to shoulder surgery that might help you through this process…

Alternatives To Shoulder Joint Surgery For Pain & Arthritis

Numerous conditions can cause shoulder pain and restricted movement. Arthritis, bursitis and tendonitis are common ailments. Fractures, especially those involving the collarbone or the upper arm, can have a significant impact on shoulder mobility. The cartilage may become worn or torn. A tear in the rotator cuff can also occur, resulting in severe pain and dramatic reductions in mobility. At times, surgery may be indicated for any of these shoulder problems. However, physicians often prefer to try non-surgical treatments prior to operating.

  • The doctor may order non-prescription medications, such as ibuprofen or aspirin, to reduce pain and inflammation. Prescription pain relievers and muscle relaxers may follow if the patient receives no relief from over-the-counter medications. The physician may also opt for steroids, injected into various locations of the shoulder, to help alleviate symptoms and accelerate the recovery.
  • Physical therapy may be beneficial for some patients. Depending on the nature of the injury, the physician may give the patient a series of exercises to perform at home. More severe cases may require a formal course of physical therapy.
  • It may be necessary for the patient to modify his or her activities. If the patient can identify certain movements or stresses that precede the onset of symptoms, avoiding such activities may reduce the pain and inflammation. In some cases, avoiding the activity for a period of time can allow the injury to heal without further intervention.

Another procedure of relatively recent origin involves the injection of an irritant to stimulate the growth of tendon and ligament tissue. The technique uses the bodies own healing system to trigger an inflammatory response that can sometimes result in growth that is thicker and stronger than the natural tissue. However, the procedure cannot heal bone or cartilage. On average, most patients need three to six injections to achieve results, but it is possible that many more injections will be required. This method has yet to be proven in long-term studies.

I hope this helps you better understand the alternatives to shoulder surgery including shoulder replacement.

Until next time,
Stuart

About the Author: Dr. Stuart Gold, M.D. is a board certified orthopedic surgeon who has 23 years experience specializing in sport injuries, joint replacement, arthritis and limb salvage. As the Director of the Orthopedic Institute, Dr. Gold recently published The Patient's Guide To Orthopedic Surgery to help patients better understand the challenges, risks and opportunities of orthopedic care.

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