Common shoulder injury heals well without surgery

Shoulder injuries — including dislocations — are becoming alarmingly common in elderly patients.

If you or someone you love is dealing with a chronic shoulder injury, there’s a good chance you’ve been told that surgery is the only fix.

But before you let your surgeon book an operating room, there’s a new study out of Canada you’ll want to see.

Researchers are warning that if you sign up for one of the most routine shoulder surgeries around, you could be making a mistake that will haunt you for years.

According to the study, conducted at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, patients treated without shoulder surgery for a common dislocation returned to work sooner, had fewer complications and experienced less disability.

Researchers tracked patients with shoulder injuries and dislocations (and I bet they weren’t hard to find — I see them in my practice all the time) for two years. And those patients who just used an arm sling and physical rehab were able to move their shoulders better than those who had surgery just six weeks after their injuries.

Three months after the injuries, 75 per cent of those who didn’t have surgery were able to return to work while only 43 per cent who had operations were back on the job.

Of course, the patients who chose surgery suffered from complications like nerve damage, bleeding and stiffness called “frozen shoulder.”

As you get older — and particularly if you’re keeping active — it’s pretty common to suffer an injury to your shoulder’s acromioclavicular (AC) joint. And for years, the typical treatment for AC joint damage and dislocations has been surgery involving plates and screws.

But as the study’s lead researcher said, there’s never been any real evidence that surgery is the best treatment. He sounds like my kind of guy — I wish more doctors would test and challenge conventional wisdom before letting patients go under the knife.

Shoulder injuries are especially debilitating, because they can keep you from your favourite activities. And that’s true whether we’re talking about something as intensive as a round of tennis, or as simple as knitting.

But before you let some surgeon tell you that an operation is a quick fix, remember two things.

Turns out there’s nothing quick about it. And it may not be a fix at all.

Wishing you the best of health,

Dr. Glenn S. Rothfeld
Nutrition & Healing
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