Shoulder arthroscopy is a procedure used to diagnose a problem with the shoulder joint, and also to treat various conditions.
As a treatment, it is used to correct shoulder dislocation, shoulder tendonitis and bursitis, osteoarthritis, a torn rotator cuff and to remove loose bodies, such as bone or cartilage, from the shoulder joint.
Arthroscopy allows the surgeon to view and operate inside the joint by using a medical device called an arthroscope. It is inserted through a very small incision in the skin and is used instead of making a large incision.
The arthroscope has a small camera fitted to the end that films and magnifies the image onto a TV screen; the orthopedic surgeon can easily see to perform the surgery using small instruments.
Arthroscopy has revolutionized joint surgery – it is less invasive and traumatic to the patient, healing time is reduced and recovery is much faster than with traditional surgical methods.
The shoulder joint has the widest range of movement of all the joints in the body. It has the ability to move in more different directions than other joints which makes it the most versatile.
The shoulder has a typical ball and socket joint but the socket is very shallow and the joint depends on the tendons, ligaments and muscles to keep it in place.
This construction of the shoulder means that it is more frequently dislocated than any of the other major joints in the body. It is also prone to other injuries and problems, which can be very restrictive and painful, as anyone who has had a shoulder problem will tell you.
Besides dislocation, one of the most common problems that occur in the shoulder is rotator cuff injury. The rotator cuff refers to the four tendons that connect the shoulder muscles to the upper arm, and it is protected by fluid-filled sacs called the bursae.
Injuries to the rotator cuff are painful, limit movement and can become inflamed. Causes include injury through a fall or repetitive action of the shoulder, like swimming, tennis, hanging pictures or curtains. Most shoulder injuries actually involve muscles, tendons and ligaments rather than the bones.
Recovery from a shoulder arthroscopy will depend on the original problem and whether the procedure was diagnostic or corrective.
A diagnostic arthroscopy will require only a short time of rest and avoidance of heavy lifting for several days. If a condition was treated during the shoulder arthroscopy, recovery will depend on what procedure was performed.
Allow for a six week recovery after treatment, limit movement of the arm and shoulder and gradually increase movement to regain the strength and mobility in the joint. A dislocation or rotator cuff repair may take several months to fully heal.
Physical therapy is usually prescribed to help rehabilitate the joint. Fully trained professionals will give you a series of movements and exercises to perform, both with them and on your own at home. The more dedicated you are to your physical therapy, the sooner you will regain full use of your shoulder.