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Messages to others about shoulder surgery

The people we talked to offered different advice based on their experiences of keyhole shoulder surgery. Everyone is different and what works for one person may not work for someone else. Here are some of their suggestions.

Many people were pleased they’d had subacromial shoulder surgery and recommended it to those who are eligible and might be considering it. The benefits included being pain-free again and mobile enough to do activities that had become difficult because of pain. These included driving, work, sports and, for some, sleeping properly. Several wished they’d had surgery sooner rather than putting up with severe pain, Beverley saying she’d felt ‘quite down’ before. Others recommend not giving up if people have shoulder pain, and that they should keep going back to the GP if the pain persists.
 

Olive can see no disadvantages to having shoulder surgery. She felt ‘hopeless’ before it and recommends those eligible to ‘go for it’.

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Age at interview: 76
Sex: Female
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So in your opinion or in your experience, what were the advantages and disadvantages of having surgery? Are there any disadvantages of having this surgery?

As far as I’m concerned, no. I’d say no disadvantages at all [laughs].

Okay, so for you it has 

Yes, it just helps me, you know to have the operation.

Okay. Is there any advice you would like to give to other people recovering from this kind of surgery. Any advice based on your experience? I mean, I don’t know, taking it easy, don’t be afraid etc.?

Yeah, I mean I’d say, “Don’t be afraid. Go for it.” Because before the operation I was hopeless, absolutely hopeless, and after the operation I felt so much better. I’d never say, “No, don’t have the operation. Go for it.”
 

Nicola advises others not to give up if they know that something’s wrong. She also recommended watching the videos, reading leaflets and asking questions.

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Age at interview: 46
Sex: Female
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I would say, don’t give up. Okay. Just keep going back to your doctor. Just keep telling your doctor that you know something’s not right. It’s your body, so you know, you know how it feels, what’s going on. And, you know, if they say, “Go to physio”, try it but if, you know, if it’s getting worse, it’s not working. So just don’t give up. Just keep going.

Okay and regarding people who are about to have the type of surgery you had, what would you say to them about the surgery and the experience of?

The experience of the whole of it was really good, you know. It was, I wasn’t scared because everything was explained to me so I knew from the start to the end what was going on. So, and the video, watch the video, read the paperwork and ask questions and you’ll come out the other side happy [laughs].
Manuel advised others not to be afraid of having shoulder surgery and to read as much they can beforehand. He was happy he’d had it and that his arm and shoulder were working well again. Sue recommended watching the Technology Enhanced Patient Information (TEPI) videos as a ‘refresher’.
 

Before surgery Ken found it painful to drive, play sports, vacuum, wash up and use his computer. After surgery his shoulder is ‘brilliant’.

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Age at interview: 46
Sex: Male
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So it virtually stopped me [doing] a lot of things, everything from normal, to be frank I find it hard even to drive. Because if you drive you’re hand hold like this, no problem, when you turn left it’s no problem. When you turn right, this hand has to move up and turn, it’s really, really painful so I found it hard to drive and I virtually cannot ride my motorbike. And I can’t do any sport and I can’t do most things at home because, to be fair, I like very simple thing like washing up or hoover, I can’t do because of this, I think it's, like my thing has been locked because anything move, anything out something like 45 degree from that side is still really painful.

Okay, this was before surgery?

This was before surgery, yes.

And any effect on your work life I mean?

After surgery?

No, before surgery.

Yes, because right okay there’s two things like, because I’m a buyer and I use computer a lot okay, so my right hand is the main one that I use a lot on the mouse. So it’s one of those ones you see on your desk, you start using the mouse right, you limit yourself to a very small angle.

Sometimes even the mouse or you just like say slightly pull, you move your hand out of the limited angle and its really painful, so yes it does. So you virtually, I virtually, it’s like you just try to, it’s like I’m tying myself, my arm against my body like that so as long as I move like this it’s fine, anything outside that, its really painful.

Okay. And how does it compare to after the surgery?

After the surgery it's brilliant, it’s not too much, I mean my normal things. I even tried playing badminton last week it, everything is as good, back to normal apart from the niggling pain on the collar bone and that bit, everything is perfectly back to normal. 
 

Sue found the videos brilliant. She dipped in and out and watched them whenever she’d forgotten something. She felt calm, relaxed and ‘equipped’ for surgery.

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Age at interview: 48
Sex: Female
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I watched it [TEPI videos] very quickly, briefly there and when I came home from that appointment I watched it again because I thought you know, when you’re sort of like, you’re sort of in a different environment, you don’t settle and watch it and take it all in the first time so it was really, and that’s what I found really good about it that you could look at it again. 

So I looked at it again at home, the study, the pictures, the 3D pictures and got it in my head what was going to happen next at the pre-op and then the surgery itself and then afterwards which was very, very helpful. But, and the, just before I went to pre-op I looked at it again to make sure I had it in my mind what was going to happen there. Which was great, it was great to be able to dip into it when you needed it, when you’d forgotten something and that’s what I found was brilliant. And then after surgery too although I’d got it in my head more by that point I still looked again after surgery to help me with the exercises and make sure I was doing them correctly.

Okay so you dipped in and out?

Yes.

According to what you needed at that time.

At that time yes and what, every time I did it I watched, I looked at all of it but I took from it what I needed at that point. And then I went back later and did it again because I needed something else from it, then so it was really good, very good for that.

Did it answer your questions or was there something missing in the information as presented on the 3D images?

No, I felt everything was there. I felt it was the most, I have to say when I went into surgery at that time, I’ve had a few surgeries in the past, and when I went into surgery at that time I felt more equipped for it. I knew what was going to happen. I didn’t have to ask questions, I knew it. Although the doctor still asked you did you want to know this and no because I’d been looking at this and its fine, I know what’s going to happen, I know. 
And I did feel more calm and relaxed than I’ve ever felt in surgery, yes going into surgery as calm as you can be, you know what I mean, so it was very good, very good, very helpful. I personally found it very helpful.
Wayne ‘couldn’t wait’ to have surgery because of the pain he’d been in. He was self-employed and advised others to plan ahead so that they could take the recommended amount of time off work.

People also offered tips during recovery, including:

•    be patient during recovery as it can be gradual and sometimes take longer than expected
•    wearing loose clothing can be helpful in the early stages
•    avoid heavy lifting and reaching for objects in high places
•    do the recommended exercises every day

Mary, like several others, said that having a shower during the first week after surgery can be hard. She wrapped cling film around her shoulder so that it wouldn’t get wet:
 
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Mary kept her shoulder dry by using cling film. It felt better soon after surgery, which has been a positive experience.

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Age at interview: 45
Sex: Female
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Are there any messages or advice that you would give them [other people]?

Oh washing is probably the most frustrating thing afterwards. So it’s not really a message to them but it just suddenly struck me as being, I found cling filming, so I would cling film from here all the way over the whole area because it’s, you know, it’s alright to not shower for a couple of days. You can sort of wash and things but after a while you actually want to get sort of under the shower and have a, and I kept putting it off because I was worried about it, ‘No I’m going to do it.’ And that seemed to work really well.

So, just cling filming the, just start using the, about a, another bit of your body you can sort of put a bag on it and tie it on but your shoulder is quite hard to do that. So I found the cling film really, really helped on that. Sorry, what was the question?

Just whether you had any messages or advice to other patients who are going for the surgery?

No, I find it really a very positive, the whole thing from the pre-op to the day, it, and I mean it felt better, it felt better straight away.
A few people who’d had problems after surgery recommended not giving up and to keep contacting or seeing the relevant health professionals until the problems are resolved. 

People also had messages for health professionals. Many praised the care they’d been given and said they were grateful that their experience had been encouraging. Jasmine wanted to thank the professionals who’d cared for her and Ken said they’d done an ‘absolutely brilliant job’. For Wayne, the hospital had been ‘gold star all the way’. Jenny, an ex-nurse, felt that health professionals don’t have the time to talk to patients these days and that it was important that they made time to communicate with patients at the bedside. Having surgery was ‘worthwhile’ and had improved her shoulder but she felt that doctors should warn people more about the risks of surgery:
 

Doctors should tell patients more about the complications. Jenny is waiting for an appointment to find out why she’s having nerve problems.

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Age at interview: 64
Sex: Female
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It’s worthwhile having it. Yes, it does improve your situation providing you don’t get a problem afterwards. If it’s a straightforward operation, no problems. You know, there shouldn’t be any problems. We don’t know why this one’s occurred [nerve problem] but, you know, to be made aware that there could be a problem. Maybe it is one in a thousand, one in two thousand but it is a possibility that it might happen, then tell us. You know, at least you’d be prepared for it. You know, the fact that I don’t know what’s gone on and nobody seems to know either and I’m just hanging in limbo. It’s not good. 

Waiting for an appointment?

Hmm.
Olive would like health professionals to stress to patients the time it takes to recover, which can be longer than they expect, and Alan would like professionals to give more information about managing at home in the early stages of recovery.

Last reviewed August 2018.

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