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When Conservative Treatment Fails: What to Do Next for Shoulder Pain

Shoulder Pain

Are you suffering from pain in your shoulder that just won’t go away? 

You may have already sought out conservative treatments like physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medications, but still be feeling the discomfort.

 Don’t despair – there are still many options available to you.

 In this article, we’ll explore what to do next when conservative treatment fails to provide relief from shoulder pain. We’ll look at the various treatments available, from lifestyle changes to surgery, and discuss how each of them can help to reduce pain and improve mobility. 

You’ll get an overview of the risks and benefits of each approach, so that you can make an informed decision about the best option for your particular situation. 

We’ll also provide advice on how to choose the right treatment and get the most out of your treatment. So if you’re ready to take the next step towards finding relief from shoulder pain, read on to learn more!

Overview of Conservative Treatments

Conservative treatments are non-invasive methods of relieving shoulder pain and improving function. They often involve lifestyle changes, such as changing sleeping positions, avoiding activities that cause pain, and doing stretches and exercises to maintain mobility. Physical therapy is another popular conservative treatment and can involve massage, stretching, and strengthening exercises that help to reduce tension and inflammation. Anti-inflammatory medications can also be used to reduce swelling and to control pain.

When these treatments fail to provide relief, there are still options available. Surgery is a common choice for more serious shoulder problems like rotator cuff tears, labral tears, and shoulder impingement. Surgery offers the benefit of rapid relief from pain and improved mobility, but it also carries risks such as infection and scarring. Non-surgical treatments such as stem cell therapy, platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection therapy, and ultrasound-guided injections can also be used to treat shoulder injuries and inflammation. Each of these treatments has its own advantages and disadvantages, and your Osteopath can help you decide which is right for you.

Benefits and Risks of Surgery

When conservative treatments like physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medications fail to provide the desired relief from shoulder pain, surgery may be necessary. Surgery is a major decision, however, and there are risks and benefits to consider before proceeding.

On the upside, surgery can provide a more permanent solution to a debilitating injury. By repairing the underlying cause of the pain, surgery can help to reduce pain and improve function. In some cases, surgery can even restore a full range of motion and strength, allowing the patient to return to activities that were once impossible.

On the downside, there are risks associated with any form of surgery. Complications, such as infection or nerve damage, can occur. In addition, surgery can be costly and may require a significant recovery period. Depending on the extent of the procedure, physical therapy may be necessary following surgery to help restore full function.

Ultimately, the decision to have surgery is a personal one, and it is important to weigh the risks and benefits carefully before proceeding. The goal is to improve quality of life and reduce pain, so it is important to consider all options before making a decision. A qualified healthcare professional can help to provide guidance and answer any questions you may have.

Alternatives to Surgery

When conservative treatment for shoulder pain fails to provide relief, it is important to consider other alternatives that can help to reduce pain and improve mobility. One option to consider is lifestyle changes, such as regular exercise, proper nutrition, and adequate rest. Exercise can help to strengthen the muscles and joints in the shoulder, while proper nutrition can help to reduce inflammation. Additionally, adequate rest and stress management can help to improve overall health and wellbeing, reducing the symptoms associated with shoulder pain.

Another option is steroid injections. Steroid injections can help to reduce inflammation and provide temporary pain relief. However, it is important to note that steroid injections can only provide short-term relief and should not be used as a long-term solution. For some, steroid injections may not be appropriate due to the potential side effects.

The other option not much talked about, but which can be very effective is to give it a bit more time. Sometimes a break from any treatment can be helpful of just “letting things settle down”, and then go back to conservative treatment a few weeks later to see if provides more relief.

Lifestyle Changes to Manage Shoulder Pain

It is also useful to incorporate aerobic exercise into your daily routine. Aerobic exercises have been shown to reduce shoulder pain and improve mobility by increasing strength and range of motion. Additionally, low-impact exercises such as swimming and biking can be helpful as they do not put strain on the shoulder. However, it is important to consult a doctor or physical therapist before beginning any new activity to make sure it is safe.

By making lifestyle changes and incorporating low-impact exercises into your daily routine, you can reduce shoulder pain and improve mobility.

When to Seek Further Advice

After a series of sessions if there is no improvement then it is important to have imaging done such as MRI to elucidate whether surgery might be needed. In the cases of tendinopathies it is important to make sure there are no osteophytes which are spicules of excessive bone that might be irritating the tendon. In such cases surgery can shave this off and offer a long term respite if this is the cause of your tendon issue. Some shoulders just dont respond adequately to conservative treatment. Nobody knows why. Thats why I always reasses after 5 sessions. If there is no imporvwemnt it is important to consider further investigations. It also helps confirm any diagnosis made.

Should you have any further questions about shoulder pain, give me a call anytime.  I’ve put some resources here for futher information which you may find helpful


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Laurens Holve

Laurens Holve has over 35 years experience as a Healthcare Practitioner specialising in both Osteopathy and Acupuncture practicing in North London and Woking, Surrey.

He trained in Osteopathic Medicine in London and studied Acupuncture in London and China where he worked and gained clinical experience in a hospital in Shanghai.

He helps people quickly get back to health by using his many years of study and experience employing different techniques to help reduce pain, increase mobility and improve health.