Shoulder surgery is one of the marvels of modern medicine, correcting serious injuries and diseases that have plagued humankind since pre-historic times, including shoulder separation, dislocation, fracture, arthritis, and tendonitis.
The introduction by the medical community of arthroscopic surgery presented another huge leap forward, allowing the surgeon to avoid making the large incisions required by older, open surgery techniques. With arthroscopic surgery, the time required to heal the tissues surrounding the shoulder joint is reduced considerably versus with open surgery. Tiny incisions allow the surgeon to conduct the entire procedure using special tools that reach into the affected area and carry out the procedure.
Still, even when arthroscopic surgery is used, many shoulder surgery patients experience a burning pain after shoulder surgery. This can last for days or weeks and can trouble the patient, who is just trying to get on with his or her life.
Here are some tips for how to handle burning pain after shoulder surgery. Note that the best course of action for you to reduce and eliminate your own shoulder pain will vary by the shoulder problem being corrected and the choice of procedure. Consult with your doctor before undergoing any healing regimen.
Immediately after surgery, you will likely be given strong pain medications at the hospital, such as morphine or Demerol.
During surgery, your doctor may have chosen to insert a small plastic catheter into the actual site of the surgery inside the body. The catheter is connected to a small pump filled with anesthetic and is situated outside of the body. The pump slowly feeds the shoulder with reducing medicine and can help considerably with pain reduction. The catheter and pump are removed by the patient 2-3 days after surgery.
Meanwhile, the doctor will usually prescribe pain medications such as hydrocodone or Tylenol with codeine, as well as an anti-inflammatory medication, since much of the burning pain felt after shoulder surgery is caused by inflammation and fluid buildup in the shoulder.
Your incisions after arthroscopic surgery will usually be so small that they will not be closed with sutures. The incisions may weep – or drain – a bit over the first 24 hours. If they do, be sure to change the dressings and wounds regularly to keep them dry. Notify your doctor if the wounds weep for a period beyond the first 24 hours.
Be sure to apply ice to the affected area for at least 20 minutes per day for the first few days after surgery. Do not place the ice directly onto the skin. Rather, place a damp towel on the skin, then apply an ice pack (or a pack of frozen vegetables, such as peas) onto the towel. This will help reduce inflammation, which be not only painful, but which can also lead to tissue scarring if not controlled properly.
Stretching & Exercise:
It is important to keep the muscles in the shoulder loose. Light, slow stretching is a very good way to accomplish this. Your doctor can provide you with a list of stretches appropriate to your type of surgery.
Immobility and Physical Therapy:
You will likely need to keep your shoulder largely immobile for a period of weeks, using a sling. It is important to not move your shoulder during the indicated period, even if the pain goes away.
Your doctor may also prescribe physical therapy that you can perform at home. Examples include: the pendulum (allowing your arm to swing in small circles), isometric exercises (tightening the muscles), passive range of motion exercises (whereby someone else moves your arm), and resistance exercises (whereby the shoulder is moved against resistance). Following these faithfully should ensure smooth healing and reduce pain.
Following these tips should help reduce your burning pain. Meanwhile, be sure to contact your doctor if you develop a fever, your pain cannot be controlled by medication, or a foul odor develops around the wounds.