Shoulder pain is one of the biggest health complaints among older people. Each year, more than more than 200,000 Americans have surgery to treat it.
The most common shoulder procedure is called “decompression.” It is supposed to cure or improve “impingement.” This is what doctors call pain and restricted range of movement in the shoulder. i
During the operation, the surgeon threads an arthroscope through a small incision to repair or remove damaged tissue. This allows for painless and easier movement.
It seems very straightforward. It seems very simple. Doctors perform it all the time.
But until recently, there has been surprisingly little research on shoulder decompression surgery. It was first tested in Finland against a placebo.
Researchers at the University of Helsinki followed 189 patients suffering from shoulder pain for at least three months.
The patients received one of three treatments:
- Decompression surgery
- Placebo surgery (arthroscopy was used only to examine the shoulder joint)
- Exercise therapy
Two years later, the patients were asked to assess their shoulder pain.
Researchers: Shoulder Surgery Is “Useless”
Shoulder pain was reduced in all three groups. Decompression surgery was no better than placebo surgery. ii
And the exercise group also got about the same pain reduction and functionality as the other groups. The researchers found there were no clinically significant differences among the three groups.
Dr. Teppo Jarvinen is a clinical professor of orthopedics at the University of Helsinki. He was the study’s principal investigator.
“These results show that surgery is not an effective form of treatment for this most common shoulder complaint,” he said. “With results as crystal clear as this, we expect that this will lead to major changes in contemporary treatment practices.”
Doctors need to stop doing surgery for routine shoulder pain, Dr. Jarvinen said.
“It seems clear that instead of surgery, the treatment of such patients should hinge on non-operative means,” he added. “We would avoid performing hundreds of thousands useless surgeries every year in the world.”
The study was published in The BMJ.
Two Best Exercises for Shoulder Pain
Shoulder impingement usually occurs later in life. About 21% of seniors suffer from it. iii
It can be the result of years of poor posture…standing or sitting with stooped shoulders. Your shoulder tissue can become compressed over time. This causes pain and impingement. iv
Dr. John M. Kirsch is author of the book Shoulder Pain? The Solution and Prevention. He says that 99% of shoulder pain can be cured with one simple exercise. This is called the dead hold. v
The dead hang: The only equipment you need to do this exercise is a pull-up bar or another type of horizontal bar that you can hang from.
Grip the bar with an overhand grip. Your hands should be the same width as your shoulders. Relax your shoulders. Do not squeeze your shoulders together.
Simply hang. Don’t try to do a pull-up.
Start slowly. It might be difficult at first. You can do partial hangs if you are unable to do a full hang without your feet touching the ground. You can place your feet on a stool, or on the ground. Then apply pressure to your shoulders.
If you don’t have a bar high enough to stay off the ground, you can use a lower bar and bend your knees. You should allow as much weight as you can to hang from the bar.
Work your way up to three sets of 30-second hangs per day.
The farmer’s carry: If you don’t have access to an overhead bar, you can get similar benefits with an exercise called the farmer’s carry.
Take a dumbbell or kettlebell in each hand. The outside of your thigh should be the level of your arms and hands.
Stand erect. Relinquish your shoulders and bend them downwards so that the weights are distributed evenly. You can either stand or walk forward.
Start with a weight and time limit that you can handle. Your goal is to eventually have two dumbbells equal in weight. For example, if you weigh 200 pounds, your goal would be to carry two 50-pound dumbbells.
Over time, build up to three sets of 30 seconds if you are stationary. If you are walking, walk 30 yards for each set.
Shoulder pain is something that many of face as we get older. These simple exercises can be used to relieve your pain without the need for surgery.
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