Taking a Swing at Elbow and Shoulder Pain

Taking a Swing at Elbow and Shoulder Pain

You don’t have to live with long-term problems related to your elbow and shoulder.

When your elbow or shoulder hurts, it can be hard to make it through the day, much less pursue activities you love. Arthritis, or the wearing down of the joint, can cause discomfort when the bones rub together. Sometimes arthritis results because of a prior traumatic injury, but the condition can also develop for no apparent cause.

Although it is not always possible to prevent arthritis from affecting shoulders and elbows, you can take steps to address your arthritis-related pain.

Addressing Arthritis-related Pain

“Many patients believe they will just have to live with consistent pain and disability associated with their shoulder or elbow,” said Ryan Donegan, MD, MS, divisional chief of orthopedics at Saint Joseph East, part of KentuckyOne Health, and orthopedic surgeon and shoulder/elbow specialist with Bluegrass Orthopaedics and Hand Care. “If you have consistent shoulder and elbow pain, see a provider with extensive training in these conditions — there are more options available for treatment than you might think. Shoulder and elbow reconstruction allow us to replace damaged anatomy in the joint with other materials, including the patient’s own tissue.”

The most common surgical procedure for elbow and shoulder pain due to arthritis is total joint replacement. Just like a replaced hip or knee, doctors remove the damaged elbow or shoulder and replace it with an artificial joint that allows for greater mobility and less pain.

Individual Care to Help and Heal

“Each patient’s case is different and requires significant time spent understanding the unique anatomy of the problem and how arthritis has affected the joint,” Dr. Donegan said. “An intensive review of X-rays, MRIs or CT scans prior to every surgery is necessary to deliver the best possible result.”

Most major shoulder and elbow reconstructive procedures require up to six months for complete recovery. However, the majority of patients feel significant improvement to their arthritis pain within days of surgery.

Though shoulder and elbow replacement surgery are less common than knee or hip replacement surgery, these procedures can have an extremely positive impact on patients’ lives. Each year, approximately 53,000 shoulder replacements and 3,000 elbow replacements are performed nationwide.

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2017 issue of One Health magazine. Receive more health and wellness news and information by signing up for your free subscription to One Health.

Download our joint pain guides to learn more about the symptoms and causes of hip and knee pain, treatment options available and when you should contact your health care provider.