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Arthroscopy Of The Shoulder

Frequently Asked Questions: Arthroscopy Of The Shoulder

Friday, March 16, 2012 - 16:51

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

Here are some frequently asked questions related to arthroscopy of the shoulder.

Q: I don't recall injuring my shoulder. Why is it so painful?

A: Shoulder pain arises from the soft tissues (muscles, ligaments, and tendons) more often than from the bones. You need not have injured your shoulder. Pain can be caused by inflammation of the tendons (tendinitis), particularly the rotator cuff tendons and the biceps tendon; a tear of the rotator cuff due to wear and tear; bursitis (which is an inflammation of the bursa, the sac that separates some of the muscle layers and allows the tendons to glide smoothly); or other soft tissue problems as well as arthritis of the joint.

Q: How long does it take to recover from shoulder arthroscopy?

A: In most cases, it will be possible to do light work within a few days. Most normal activities can be carried out within four to six weeks. Heavy labor and contact sports may be restricted for as long as six months.

Q: Why begin physical therapy so soon after surgery?

A: After surgery, scar tissue accumulates in the areas where the surgery was performed. Although this is an expected and often necessary part of the healing process, if the shoulder joint is not moved, too much scar tissue may accumulate, or scar tissue may accumulate in the wrong places. This excess scar tissue can hinder movement of the joint, resulting in stiffness and pain.

Q: Why do rotator cuff injuries heal slowly?

A: The rotator cuff, like all tendons, gets little blood. All bodily tissues need blood to heal. Parts of the body that have a better blood supply heal faster than those with a poor supply of blood.

Q: Why is the doctor recommending I have my shoulder repaired through a normal incision rather than arthroscopically?

A: Not all shoulder problems can be properly repaired using an arthroscope. Many surgeons believe that large rotator cuff tears, for example, are better treated by standard shoulder surgery. Similarly, a shoulder that is unstable in all directions will likely require open surgery. Moreover, shoulder arthroscopy is really still in development, and many surgeons are still not confident about the long-term results of certain repairs of shoulder problems with the arthroscope.

Arthroscopy Of The Shoulder