Arthroscopic surgery is a minimally invasive procedure that is used to inspect, diagnose, and treat problems inside a joint. Although recovery is typically much faster with arthroscopy than with open surgery, depending on the type of procedure you have done, it can still take time for your body to heal following an arthroscopy.
The shoulder is a complex joint that can be prone to problems, such as injury, overuse, and age-related wear and tear. A rotator cuff tear is one of the most common causes of shoulder pain. It can happen suddenly, such as through direct impact or while lifting something heavy, but usually occurs gradually with wear and tear or repetitive overhead arm movements. Other common types of shoulder injuries and conditions include:
- Shoulder arthritis
- Shoulder instability
- Frozen shoulder
- Trauma, such as fractures, dislocations, and tissue damage
If left untreated, shoulder injuries may get worse over time, resulting in persistent pain, weakness, and reduced motion in the arm and shoulder.
Treating Shoulder Pain
Some shoulder injuries may heal on their own or with nonsurgical methods, such as rest, activity modification, medications, guided injections, or physical therapy. However, surgery may be necessary for some circumstances to repair significant joint damage and to alleviate symptoms such as pain and reduced mobility.
When is Arthroscopic Shoulder Surgery Recommended?
Arthroscopic shoulder surgery may be recommended by your orthopedic surgeon if your symptoms do not respond well to nonsurgical treatments. The procedure can be used to diagnose and treat many conditions affecting the tendons, cartilage, and other soft tissues that surround the joint. Common arthroscopic procedures include:
- Rotator cuff repair
- Removal of inflamed tissue or loose cartilage
- Labrum removal/repair
- Repair of ligaments
- Repair for persistent shoulder dislocation
Other procedures can also be performed using arthroscopic surgery, such as nerve release, fracture repair, and cyst excision, but these are less common.
Arthroscopic shoulder surgery allows the surgeon to see inside a joint without making a large incision. During surgery, a small fiber-optic video camera called an arthroscope, is inserted into the shoulder joint through a very small incision. The camera displays images on a video monitor, which are used to guide the surgeon through the procedure.
Some types of joint damage can be repaired during arthroscopic surgery using pencil-thin surgical instruments that are inserted through additional small incisions. This type of surgery shortens the recovery time for patients and results in less pain and risk of complications when compared with open surgery, allowing patients to get back to their normal activities more quickly.
Immediately After Surgery
Arthroscopic surgery is usually a quick procedure, with most surgeries taking less than an hour. Straight after surgery, you will recover in a separate room for a few hours before going home. You will need stitches and bandages on the affected area, and you will be prescribed medications to relieve pain and inflammation. You will also be given aftercare instructions for when you go home.
Most patients do not experience complications from arthroscopic shoulder surgery. However, as with any surgery, there are some risks, such as infection, excessive bleeding, blood clots, and damage to nerves or blood vessels. Your surgeon will discuss surgical risks with you before your procedure.
Recovery from surgery will vary depending on the complexity of the procedure. It can take weeks to months for the shoulder joint to completely heal after arthroscopic surgery, and pain and swelling may last for several weeks. Pain medication and applying cold compresses to the area can help reduce pain and swelling.
For more complicated procedures, you may need to keep your arm immobilized initially and use a sling for 7-10 days after surgery. You may also need help at home with activities such as cooking, dressing, and driving for several days following surgery. If you have had a minor repair, you may be able to resume light activity and return to work a few days after your procedure. Usually, you can drive again in 1-3 weeks, depending on the type of procedure you have.
In most cases, your surgeon will want to see you at a follow-up appointment 1-2 weeks after your procedure to check that your shoulder is healing correctly.
Depending on the complexity of your surgery, physical therapy can be a crucial part of your recovery and rehabilitation. Your therapist will create a personalized treatment plan and will work with you through each stage of your recovery to reduce post-operative pain and help you regain strength, mobility, flexibility, and function in your arm and shoulder. Rehabilitation also helps to prevent the buildup of scar tissue, which can restrict joint movement.
You will be given an exercise program to follow at home to support your recovery and promote healing. Once your normal strength and range of motion have been restored, your physical therapist will work with you to help reduce the risk of further injury.
As you heal and build strength, you will gradually be able to engage in more strenuous activities in the coming weeks. Certain activities will need to be avoided, such as lifting or pushing heavy objects or repetitive overhead movements, to prevent injury that could hinder healing.
Not every patient’s recovery is the same, and factors such as your age, overall health, the severity of your shoulder problem, and the type of procedure you have will do will determine your recovery period and rehabilitation.
It takes much longer to recover from more complicated procedures. Full recovery may take several months. Although recovery can be a slow process, following your surgeon’s guidelines and your rehabilitation plan is essential to a successful outcome.
Arthroscopic Shoulder Surgery in Carmel, Indiana
If you have ongoing pain or restricted movement in the shoulder, visit Total Shoulder in Carmel, Indiana, for expert care. Board-certified and fellowship-trained orthopedic shoulder surgeon Dr. Jacobsen and his team specialize in conditions and injuries affecting the shoulder. We utilize the least invasive methods possible to diagnose and treat your condition.
To learn more about the services we provide or to book a consultation, call us today at (317) 705-4392. Alternatively, you can request an appointment online now.