Shoulder Pain Treatments and Shoulder Replacement

Shoulder pain is an orthopedic condition that may stem from many different causes, such as trauma, sports injuries and degenerative conditions. Some types of shoulder pains resolve on their own without treatment, while others may require rehabilitation or surgery to restore functionality and provide pain relief. We offer expert shoulder pain treatments and shoulder replacement surgery in New Jersey, close to home.

At RWJBarnabas Health, our orthopedic centers offer diagnostic services and treatment options for a wide variety of shoulder injuries and chronic shoulder pain.

Our multidisciplinary teams of orthopedic surgeons, physicians, physician assistants, registered nurses, care coordinators and medical professionals lead the way in providing compassionate care to all of our patients.

We help you restore shoulder function and range of motion so you can enjoy a more active, pain-free life.

About the Shoulder

As one of the largest and most complex joints in the body, the shoulder facilitates many functions, from typing to performing household tasks, to playing sports. Formed where the upper arm bone fits into the shoulder blade, the structure resembles and performs like a ball and socket.

The shoulder itself is made of the following primary bones, including:

  • The humerus. Also known as the upper-arm bone.
  • The scapula. Also known as the shoulder blade.
  • The clavicle. Also known as the collarbone.

This ball and socket joint is surrounded by soft tissues to hold the components together. Lining the joint is a thin membrane, known as synovium, which produces fluid to lubricate and protect the joint. As with other joints, a network of cartilage also serves to protect the joint and facilitate movement.

Other important structures in the shoulder include:

  • The biceps tendon. This tendon attaches from the shoulder socket to the bicep muscle and allows a person to bend their elbow as well as rotate their forearm.
  • The rotator cuff. This cartilage ring surrounds the shoulder socket to provide joint stability. The rotator cuff is the source of many sports injuries as it is responsible for assisting with heavy loads and wide ranges of motion.
  • Deltoid. This strong muscle provides strength to lift the arm.

Why Does My Shoulder Hurt? Common Causes of Shoulder Pain

Some of the most common reasons for shoulder pain include:

  • Arthritis is an umbrella term for more than 100 different conditions involving the swelling of the joints — the places in the body where two bones meet. It includes joint disease that is caused by wear and tear, and well as inflammatory or rheumatologic conditions such as:
    • Osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease characterized primarily by the destruction of cartilage and narrowing of the joint space
    • Rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune and inflammatory disease affecting joints
    • Psoriatic arthritis, a progressive, chronic inflammatory condition of the joints and the places where the tendons and ligaments attach to bones
  • Severe fractures and trauma. Complex bone breaks or trauma near the shoulder can potentially heal improperly and lead to arthritic conditions that require treatment.
  • Severely damaged or torn tissue. Sustaining a powerful impact, operating heavy machinery or handling heavy weights can occasionally cause severe damage to muscles, tendons and ligaments and result in pain and joint instability that requires treatment.
  • Tumor in or near the shoulder. Occasionally, scapula, humerus, clavicle or soft tissue tumors may develop in the shoulder area, which may cause pain, muscle weakness or loss of feeling that spreads to other areas. If left untreated, this may lead to further damage and tissue and bone degeneration.

Shoulder Pain Treatment

If you are suffering from shoulder pain, whether it is the result of an accident, aging or of unknown origin, it is important to get medical advice from an orthopedic physician or surgeon. A medical examination allows your orthopedic specialist to identify and assess the cause of your shoulder pain and the progression of the illness if present.

Before advising shoulder replacement surgery, your orthopedist may counsel you on lifestyle changes that may alleviate your symptoms of shoulder pain. Your doctor may also prescribe treatments and therapies to help minimize discomfort and restore mobility. They may include:

  • Rest
  • Ice packs
  • Painkillers and anti-inflammatory medications
  • Injections
  • Physical therapy

Shoulder Replacement Surgery in New Jersey

If standard shoulder pain treatments don’t relieve your pain or enable you move around as easily as you would like, shoulder replacement surgery, or arthroplasty, is an option.

RWJBarnabas Health offers advanced shoulder replacement surgery in New Jersey. We are the largest healthcare network in the state. Our expert, board-certified orthopedic surgeons and physicians guide patients through every stage of their shoulder replacement journey, from preoperative preparation to at-home recovery.

Total Shoulder Arthroplasty

Shoulder replacement surgery involves removing the damaged joint tissue and bone and replacing them with an artificial ball and socket made with high-grade plastics and metal alloys. This treatment is intended to both relieve pain and restore function for patients with arthritis and injuries. Patients should notice a difference immediately after the surgery is over, though some pain is expected during post-surgery recovery.

When combined with physical therapy, most patients can resume light activities within 2 to 3 weeks. After 6 months, many patients can expect to resume normal physical activity, including sports and exercise.

Partial Shoulder Replacement (Hemiarthroplasty)

Partial shoulder replacement is an option for those whose shoulder has only been partially damaged or fractured and who have not achieved pain relief from other therapies. In partial shoulder replacement, the damaged parts of the shoulder are removed and reconstructed with prosthetics.

This surgery is less invasive than a total shoulder replacement, meaning patients can experience faster recovery times. After undergoing a period of physical therapy, patients are expected to regain full shoulder function.

Reverse Shoulder Replacement

A reverse shoulder replacement is a creative solution to a complex problem. For some people who have torn rotator cuffs that cannot be repaired, or rotator cuffs or tendons that have been damaged by arthritis, or complex fractures in the shoulder, traditional shoulder replacement parts may not work. They would depend too much on weakened or ineffective rotator cuff or rotator cuff tendons to function, and cause pain and limited motion.

A reverse shoulder replacement changes the orientation of the joint to rely on the deltoid muscle to help the implant function instead of the rotator cuff.

Traditional shoulder replacement parts mimic the natural shape of a human shoulder. It is a ball-and-socket joint, with the ball at the top of the arm bone that fits into the socket in the shoulder. In a reverse shoulder joint, the prosthetic implant has the ball on the top fitting into the socket that is implanted into the arm bone. This reversal changes the stress of the movement to the deltoid muscle rather than the rotator cuff.

Revision Shoulder Replacement

When shoulder replacements fail, they may need to be replaced, in whole or in part. Sometimes older parts wear out or cause wear on the bones, or infection. Revision shoulder surgery is surgery in which part or all of the implanted prosthetic parts from a previous shoulder replacement are replaced with newer components. At RWJBarnabas Health facilities, our highly skilled, fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeons are experts in performing this complex procedure.

Do you feel that shoulder replacement may be right for you? Make an appointment with our compassionate orthopedic team today.


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