“Aren’t I too old for a shoulder replacement?”
This is a common way of thinking amongst older patients who struggle with chronic shoulder pain due to to things like arthritis and long-term rotator cuff tears.
But while it is very common, this way of thinking is actually based on several misconceptions about shoulder replacement surgery and the impact it can have on one’s quality of life.
In fact, shoulder replacement surgeons such as Dr. Johnny Nelson believe that the overall benefits of shoulder replacement surgery are higher in older patients compared to younger patients.
Some of this is because any joint replacement, including shoulder replacements, have a limited life span. Even if perfectly placed, shoulder replacement implants over time experience the same wearing tear that our normal joints experience over our life times. Because of this, shoulder surgeons are less likely to recommend shoulder replacement on very young patients, even if the arthritis and pain is very severe. Younger patients are more likely to wear out their shoulder replacements and require a second procedure.
Older patients are much less likely to have this problem. This is because the needs and activities of older patients are very different from those of younger patients. Older patients are much more likely to use their shoulders for simple, less strenuous activities: hygiene, dressing, cooking, etc. They are less likely to need their shoulders for heavy lifting, pushing, pulling and repetitive overhead motions. Therefore they are actually much better candidates for shoulder replacement surgery than younger patients because they are less likely to have complications with their implants.
Another reason why older patients are better candidates for shoulder replacement surgery is that the pain relieving benefits of shoulder replacement can be life-changing for them. While younger patients with chronic shoulder pain certainly could benefit from shoulder replacement, they are less likely to lose their independence and rely on friends, family, and other loved ones for help. Many older patients who struggle with chronic shoulder pain find it very difficult to stay independent, take care of themselves and maintain their living environments. Those who do not receive proper treatment for their shoulder pain may find themselves increasingly dependent on others, even having to sell their homes and move into assisted living facilities or in with family. Many older patients who undergo shoulder replacement surgery are able to maintain or even improve their level of independence and quality of life due to the improved ability to use their once painful arm.
Are you struggling with chronic shoulder pain that is interfering your independence and quality of life? Schedule a visit with Dr. Johnny Nelson to see if shoulder replacement surgery could be a life-changing option for you!