Do I Need Surgery for My Shoulder Pain?

From reaching and lifting to throwing and catching, your shoulder is an amazing joint that gives you a huge range of motion. Unfortunately, that also means it’s susceptible to injury. That complex network of muscles, tendons, and bones can stop functioning altogether if any one of its components is damaged.

Dr. Wade McKenna at McKenna Orthopedics, with locations in Decatur and Trophy Club, Texas, understands the intricate workings of your shoulder anatomy and how to identify the source of your shoulder pain. There are many possible types of shoulder injuries, and each can occur in varying degrees of severity. Most often they can be treated with conservative approaches, like medications, physical therapy, injections, and even stem cell therapy

But when your pain persists and doesn’t respond to these other treatments, it’s probably time to consider the next step. Here are some of the reasons you might need shoulder surgery.

Signs you might need shoulder surgery

Surgery is an invasive procedure that comes with risks, so it should never be the first choice for treating your shoulder pain. But if you can relate to any of the following scenarios, surgery might be your best option for long-term relief.

It’s keeping you up at night

An injury that’s healing may go through a stage where pain and discomfort make it tough to get a good night’s rest, but if you’ve been tossing and turning for three months or more — or unable to toss and turn — even after treatments, surgery may help.

It hurts even when you’re doing nothing

Any injury to any part of your body can be expected to hurt when you use that part. But if your shoulder is in constant pain even when you’re not moving it, that could be a sign that surgery is needed.

You can’t reach or lift

A telltale sign of a serious shoulder injury is the inability to lift and reach. If you’ve lost the ability to perform these essential tasks, your shoulder injury may require a surgeon.

What types of shoulder injuries need surgery?

From strained muscles to arthritis to a bone fracture, there are many reasons you could be experiencing shoulder pain. But most of those conditions don’t call for surgery. Here are some that do:

Torn rotator cuff

Your rotator cuff is a cup-like formation of muscles and tendons that connect your upper arm bone (humerus) to your scapula (shoulder blade). If you tear one of those rotator cuff tendons, this is a classic case for surgery.

But Dr. McKenna doesn’t perform surgery until he’s exhausted all other options first. Even though the traditional treatment for a torn rotator cuff is a surgical repair, he finds that stem cell therapy can often dramatically reduce inflammation and regenerate new tissue so that your body can heal your rotator cuff tear on its own.

If you do need surgery for your torn rotator cuff, Dr. McKenna determines the best technique for your particular injury. Some cases can be resolved through arthroscopic surgery, a technique that requires only very small incisions and uses a tiny scope to guide the surgical instruments to the problem area. 

Unfortunately, some cases are more severe and require traditional open surgery. Either way, Dr. McKenna is one of the country’s leading orthopedic surgeons, trusted by world-class athletes, so you know you can trust him with your shoulder.

Shoulder replacement

You may be familiar with knee and hip replacements, but it may surprise you to know that more than 50,000 shoulder replacements are performed every year in this country. In cases of advanced arthritis or complex fractures, you may need a complete shoulder replacement, meaning you get a new ball and socket made of plastic and metal. This is an open surgery situation.

Acromioclavicular repair

Another candidate for open shoulder surgery is an acromioclavicular joint (AC joint) injury. This is where your collar bone (clavicle) meets your shoulder. You may have severe arthritis, or you may have injured your AC joint in sports, but the damage is done, and it usually calls for surgery.

Arthroscopic candidates

Many conditions can be treated successfully with the less invasive arthroscopy procedure. These include:

If you have shoulder pain, the only way to know for sure how serious it is and whether it needs surgery is to come in and see Dr. McKenna. Call us at either location or request an appointment online to schedule a consultation so you can begin the right treatment for your shoulder pain.

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