Well, Shoot

Sorely tempted to use stronger and more colorful language, but really don’t have the energy for it. I was diagnosed a while back with advanced severe osteoarthritis. Not much you can do for it, and when the damage gets bad surgery and augmentation/replacement is the order of the day.

Three or so years ago, I was told I needed to have my right shoulder replaced. As in immediately. Second opinion disagreed, and suggested things would be better long-term if I waited until I was 67 to have the surgery. Doc one had pushed hard enough to get my back up in terms of rapid surgery. Doc two was frankly an asshole who I decided would never touch me. That said, the put it off aspect appealed to me.

The pain, however, has gotten a lot worse recently. After rolling over in bed last week and waking up yelling in pain, I broke down and got an appointment with a shoulder specialist. Just got finished with him, and I both like him and have respect for him.

The decision on when to replace is mine. He pointed out I was the only one who could or should make that decision. That said, both shoulders are fracked. There are few areas with any space left, and most movement is bone on bone. The ball of the joints both look like they’ve been pit blasted. My arm mobility on both sides is reduced. I’ve got some thinking to do and decisions to make.

Meantime, we are going to try a strong anti-inflammatory to see if it helps with pain and comfort issues. If it works, it could buy me some time. We will see.

If any of you have been through this, or had a loved one have the shoulder replacement surgery, please leave a comment. I’m looking for the information I can’t get from a doctor, only from someone who has done it. It would be appreciated.

UPDATE: After talking with my GP today, and friends and others yesterday, I asked the ortho for the surgical referral. Next up is an appointment to review, discuss, then decide.

12 thoughts on “Well, Shoot”

  1. In the same boat and scheduled for right shoulder replacement on June 22nd. NSAIDs like Naproxen are great pain relievers but take a serious toll on eGFR kidney filtration and can cause a lot of damage. Research the anti-inflammatories and make an informed decision. Also, some think it’s better to get it over with and be in recovery than in anticipation. Good luck.

    1. Thanks, and all the best to you too! Researching the anti-inflammatory now, not liking some things about it. Have reached out to both the cardiologist and the GP to get their input.

  2. I had my right should replaced in October of 2019. The first ortho said, “You have a replacement in your future but if that were my shoulder I wouldn’t touch it yet.” Second ortho agreed. I tried gel shots and cortizone shots. Both gave a tiny bit of relief. I spent 18 months with a trainer trying to restore some strength and mobility. It didn’t help. I finally went to the Hospital for Special surgery in Manhattan to see someone who specialized in Plasma Rich Platelet therapy and other treatments. She took one look at the xray, before she even looked in my direction, and told me I needed a replacement. “How long do I have?” I asked and she looked at me like a puppy tilting it’s head and asked what I meant. I told her about the other orthos saying I should wait. She told me that at HSS they wanted to get me back to doing the things I liked to do. I met with two surgeons who explained the same thing. One asked what I had stopped doing because of my shoulder. I explained that I couldn’t lift weights, I couldn’t take my boxing classes or Crossfit classes, I couldn’t even ride my bike because putting weight on the handlebar killed me. I couldn’t sleep. He promised I could do all those things again after the replacement.

    I asked both surgeons I consulted with what the success rate was. 97% the both told me. I decided to do it.

    BEST. DECISON. EVER. I should have done it two years earlier. There is no pain. I can move it about 99.5% of the range I have in my left shoulder. I can lift. I hit a heavy bag. I ride my bike. (I don’t do any of it enough because I got lazy during covid, but I have done it all and have no problem.) The only problem I have had is when I tried jiu jitsu, I don’t have enough flexibility to be on the receiving end of some moves. For me the recovery was fairly easy. I was doing very light exercises before I left the hospital. I had just lost my job so I had plenty of time for PT and the gym, until covid closed everything.

    My cousin had very similar conditions in his shoulder but his docs said he was too young for a replacement. He had to have surgery a second time and it’s never been good. He thought I was crazy. He was stunned at my recover.

    Again, it was the best decision I could have made. Good luck with it.

    1. Thank you for that info! Also, some good additions to my list of questions when I go back.

  3. I’ve been using a BodyBlade (looks like a bow, without the string) to keep the muscles in the shoulder girdle activated and to maintain strength and mobility. I’ve done all the other typical physical rehab routines but noticed no real improvement. I’ve tried all the usual light dumbell, bungy cord and cable machine exercises but find them to be unrewarding and unproductive. The BodyBlade engages more muscles than other weighted or tension exercises, especially in the core.

    Part of the “problem” with the shoulder, especially in American men (playing American sports, which emphasize upper body strength) who have been lifelong athletes and weight lifters, is that we tend to isolate our movements too much, letting the shoulders do all the work, when we should be using more of our torso, core, and hips. Muscles in these areas provide more strength and stability. We need to learn how to move (lift, turn, push, pull) more fluidely, and not rely on our shoulders to bear the load and do the all the work.

    I’m 61, have always been athletic, played sports that involved using my shoulder as a battering ram (lacrosse, ice hockey), lifted weights since my teens, fell on my shoulder multiple times while mountain biking, etc., etc. My right shoulder “crackles” so loud I can hear it and certainly feel it. I have classic impingement symptoms. Above-the-head mobility is reduced.

    Think about moving with your whole body, without relying so much on upper body strength. Many of us aged-out athletes have the same issue. It’s almost a cultural thing. We move with our shoulders instead of our core. You don’t hear about soccer players with shoulder problems.

    As for surgery, it’s a non-reversible commitment. If you do it, you need to be committed to intensive rehab. Plus, you must accept the inherent risks of going to a hospital or surgical center, including post-surgical infection and the general incompetence of today’s corporate healthcare (yes, my bias is showing, but, I know a lot about healthcare).

  4. Due to severe osteoarthritis I had my left shoulder replaced 4 years ago at the age of 51. Other types of treatment couldn’t do anything to alleviate the pain and lack of motion, had many nights waking up in pain like you have had. There are some concerns about having it done so young as most implants last around 20 years or so but I had few options. I was terrified of having it done but it was easily the best thing I could have done!

    The surgery itself was surprisingly painless, they only gave me a few days of oxycontin upon release. I was fortunate that my shoulder only had arthritic damage and no rotator cuff issues so rehab was easier than it could have been.

    I do almost everything I could do before aside from heavy weights but there is so little pain now I forget about it occasionally.

    As for advice, try to understand the scope of the surgery as there are different types of replacements as well as if there are other issues related to the muscles surrounding the joint. This will help you level set your recovery. Also make sure your doc has done many of these procedures before, experience helps I think.

    Best of luck and thanks for your blog!

  5. I’ve had both of them replaced. The surgeon said to put it off until the pain was too much to bear. Thing is, it never got to that point for either of them…just sore muscles when I would use my arms to do heavy work. When he looked at the x-rays he was very surprised that I wasn’t in significant pain, especially my left shoulder (I’m left-handed). The joint was so far gone that he ended up doing a “reverse” replacement. The right shoulder was just a run-of-the-mill replacement. Best thing I ever did. Range of motion, for both joints, was beyond the expectations after physical therapy was over. I’m very pleased with the results.

  6. I don’t have any personal experience with the surgery, however I would caution against relying on heavy duty anti-inflamatory meds for too long a time. They really mess with many other things in your body.

    It’s sounds like you’re mostly convinced but just giving yourself time. That’s not bad. You need to go in to any surgery with a positive attitude.

    Since you need both shoulders done, make sure the first side is fully healed and you can depend on it before doing the second side. Good luck. Prayers headed out for you!

    1. Thank you, and thank you! That mental readiness has not been there until recently. Still don’t want to do it, but also realize it needs to be done. Adding an update, I’ve started the process for the surgical referral.

  7. Not shoulder advice, but I had a total knee replacement 3 years ago. Then had the other knee done 6 months after that. I agree with the comment above, Best Decision I made. Absolutely no more knee pain.

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