Like many other orthopedic conditions, there is no quick fix for most shoulder injuries. The treatments vary depending on the specific injury, but there are some common approaches to treating many shoulder injuries. Dr. Patel, can you tell us about some of these treatments?
Of course, Major Spencer. In general, a provider may suggest wearing a sling or brace to keep your shoulder in place, along with resting your shoulder and icing the injury three or four times per day. After a period of rest, exercise may also be used to improve the range of motion, strengthen muscles, and prevent re-injury.
There are also specific treatments based on the type of injury. For example, to treat a dislocated shoulder, the provider will perform a procedure to place the ball of the humerus back into the socket. If the shoulder dislocates and spontaneously goes back into place, you still need to seek medical care. X-rays should be taken after a shoulder is put back into place to assess for fractures. If the dislocation injures tissues around the shoulder or repeated dislocations are experienced, surgery may be necessary. A shoulder separation may also require surgery if less invasive treatments are unsuccessful.
Tendinitis and bursitis are often treated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, which are medicines that can reduce pain and swelling. Along with gentle stretching exercises, corticosteroids may be injected into the shoulder if significant improvement is not seen in the first few weeks.
Treatment for a torn rotator cuff depends on the age and general health of the patient and the severity of the injury. The application of heat or ice may provide some relief, along with medications that reduce pain and swelling. In some cases, electrical stimulation of muscles and nerves, and corticosteroid injections may be used. After a period of rest, exercise may be suggested to improve range of motion, strength, and function. Surgery may be necessary to repair the damage, especially for younger, more active patients.
After undergoing shoulder surgery, you’ll need to take extra care to pamper your shoulder as it heals. Along with physical therapy, there are several tips that should help with your recovery, including:
- Do not use the injured arm to push yourself up in bed or from a chair because this requires forceful contraction of muscles.
- Be sure to follow the program of home exercises prescribed for you. You may need to do the exercises four to five times a day for a month or more.
- Be careful not to overdo it. If your shoulder pain was severe before the surgery, the experience of pain-free motion may lull you into thinking that you can do more than approved by your provider or physical therapist. Overuse of your shoulder early in your recovery can result in severe limitations in motion.
After surgery, for the period prescribed by your provider:
- Do not lift anything heavier than a glass of water.
- Do not participate in contact sports or do any repetitive heavy lifting.
- Do not place your arm in any extreme position, such as straight out to the side or behind your body.
- Feel free to ask for help. Your provider may be able to recommend an agency or facility if you do not have support at home.