July 20, 2024

Separated Shoulder, is Surgery the Only Option?

About a year ago, I was snowboarding at my local mountain, it was a very busy day and there were many people riding the terrain park that should have been watching from the side or on another part of the mountain. I was run into by a careless rider and ended up hitting the rail I was approaching before the incident. After riding down the mountain and sitting out a run in the lodge after my bad fall, a kind family asked if i was okay and then noticed my shoulder, after seeing it they abruptly rushed me to the ski patrol where it was determined I was in shock and had either broken my clavicle or had an AC separation. I was then sent to the hospital where I was diagnosed with a high grade 3 to a low grade 5 AC separation (approximately 300% vertical movement of my clavicle).

This was devastating, both for myself and my golf team whose season was starting in around 3 weeks. I was referred to a few different orthopedic surgeons and visited 3 of them for different opinions. One told me surgery was a necessity, another told me it could hurt me more to get surgery, and the last surgeon (who I ended up staying with) told me I could choose either to have the surgery or to rehabilitate my shoulder and see how it felt and if it improved over time. Not only did I get 3 different opinions on what I should do regarding surgery, but all 3 suggested different types of surgery.

I ended up deciding to hold off on the surgery, it wasn’t an immediate necessity and I didn’t feel as though I had the time to give up for rehabilitation of the surgery. I went to physical therapy and had regular check ups with my surgeon to make sure that everything was healing as it should. Within 2-3 months I was back to playing golf, wakeboarding and playing tennis among all the other sports I grew up playing. I still have occurrences of pain and some limited mobility and strength than what I used to have, but it is continuing to improve every day.

That is my story, and after dealing with the 3 month long situation before I was able to get back to being able to perform more physical tasks, I found many things that helped me out and I’m glad I did, and found things that I knew could’ve been handed differently to help my recover faster.

What I did right and would suggest for anyone in this situation would be to find a good surgeon and stick with them, but always get a second or even a third opinion. A range of opinions will help you get a better idea of what is going on and while help you decide on which option you should go with.

The next thing you need to make sure you do is that you attend every physical therapy session and work as hard as you can during them. The better you do in your physical therapy sessions the faster you will recuperate and the faster you will be back to your normal routine. In addition, aside from the physical therapy, being informed by your surgeon about the therapy is also important. Hence, for surgeons, it is crucial to use these 10 plastic surgery marketing tips.

Even though I had opted out of getting surgery there are many pros and cons to both options that I learned from talking to many surgeons and others who have gone through the same thing. Without the surgery, you will still experience occasional pain and a bump will for in your shoulder as a result from the clavicle not being attached to your shoulder by your AC ligament. Your range of motion and strength will be significantly lower at first but will gradually build up with patience and work. However this is generally the fastest recuperation time depending on the severity of the injury.

With the surgery you may still experience occasional minor pain or discomfort, however there will be no visible bump from your clavicle with most types of surgery. The range of motion will depend on the type of surgery and to get a more exact idea, ask your surgeon about specifics of it. Getting surgery tends to have a longer recuperation time and with many surgeries you are at risk to injure your shoulder again. There is a general rule of thumb where on a grade 1-2 AC separation surgery is almost never needed. On a grade 4-6, surgery is almost always needed. A grade 3 injury is a grey area, depending on the severity it doesn’t matter too much which way you decide, and remember, if surgery does not feel right at the time, it is always possible to get it done later in life.

In the end, every decision is unique and you must determine what is right for you, so talk to your surgeon, and then ask another one for a second opinion, and I wish you the best of luck.