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Rehabilitating Shoulder Motion after Surgery

Imagine you were driving your car and you heard a screeching noise coming from your front wheel. It turns out that the alignment was out and that the wheel was scrapping against some part of the car. Your mechanic said that he could trim-off the bit of the car that the wheel was scrapping against. That would eliminate the noise. You agreed and the noise was soon gone. Would you now happily continue to drive on or go, "Wait a minute! What about the wheel misalignment? Aren't you going to fix that too?"

Based on the last COE prices in Singapore ($75,789 Open Category at 7 Jan 2011), you can bet that most car owners will go for the later. But strangely enough when it comes to our own bodies (which most people would agree, costs more), we are quite happy to settle for the "no noise is good enough option".

A new study from the Henry Ford Hospital found that shoulder motion after rotator cuff surgery remains significantly different when compared to the patient's opposite shoulder. What was more troubling was that patients were very satisfied with the surgical outcome (which is good) but no longer appear to be concern about the functional long-term shoulder joint stability (which is bad).

"Although patient satisfaction is generally very high after surgical repair of a torn rotator cuff, the data suggest that long-term shoulder function -- in particular, shoulder strength and dynamic joint stability -- may not be fully restored in every patient," says Michael Bey, Ph.D., director of Herrick Davis Motion Analysis Lab at Henry Ford Hospital. "We found that the motion pattern of the repaired shoulder is significantly different than the patient's opposite shoulder," Dr. Bey says. "These differences in shoulder motion seem to persist over time in some patients."

This is unsurprising as motion pattern is habitual. A pattern formed during the painful period will simply persist, even after the reason it formed in the first place is no longer there. A habitual pattern can only be replaced with another habitual pattern. Here is where your therapist plays a major role is helping you get the right motion pattern; both the external movement pattern as well as the muscle firing pattern to achieve the movement.

Unfortunately, this trend to resolve pain while pushing the resolution of the underlying problem is increasing. Too often this is a result of us simply not comprehending the consequences down the road. Fixing the motion of the shoulder is not an expensive endeavour but does require discipline and commitment on your part.

Reference:

  1. Henry Ford Health System (2011, January 16). Shoulder function not fully restored after rotator cuff surgery, follow-up study finds.

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