On the Range of Motion: Read Barry's Story
In his role as a surgical registered nurse first assistant, Barry had seen his fair share of damaged shoulders. So when he began experiencing pain in his shoulders that was worsening, he suspected a shoulder replacement surgery, or arthroplasty, might be in his future.
“The pain was there, but I was still functioning for a while,” Barry, a Pennsylvania resident who works in New Jersey, recalls. “As time went on, though, it just got worse.”
Barry’s case is not uncommon, according to John DiBiase, MD, board certified orthopedic surgeon.
“Arthritis is the most common reason a person has shoulder arthroplasty. Sometimes it’s arthritis alone, and other times there is a tear or injury in addition to arthritis, but almost always, arthritis is present,” he explains.
Identifying the Problem
Arthritis is a degenerative disease in which the joints become inflamed. Over time, these joints become more difficult to move, and pain increases as the condition worsens. Everyday activities like combing hair or using the toilet can become a challenge.
“I compare advanced arthritis to a rusted hinge. Even if the patient were to push past the pain, he would still be unable to move the arm because the joint is so stiff,” says Dr. DiBiase.
For Barry, his arthritis was having an impact on his ability to do his work. “Some of the joint surgeries I assist on — like hip replacements — require my strength and range of motion. Before the surgery, the pain and stiffness were really becoming a challenge,” he explains.
His life outside of the operating room was also impacted by the pain.
“I’ve been riding horses for a few years. It got to the point I couldn’t even put the saddle onto Flynt, the horse I ride,” he explained.
Another area Barry was feeling the effect was sleep loss. For many of Dr. DiBiase’s patients, sleep is often the last straw.
“These patients will start with injections to manage pain, but there comes a tipping point where they are in so much pain, it will wake them up at night. That’s when they request the surgery,” he explains.
Rehab and Return
After surgery, most patients begin rehabilitation of the joint right away — a key factor in a successful recovery. The sooner a patient gets their new joint moving, the sooner the patient returns to his or her normal activities.
“Range of motion vastly improves following surgery — especially for patients who perform the physical therapy exercises as needed and follow the care plan,” says Dr. DiBiase.
For Barry, the surgery made a world of difference. “I’ve worked on these surgeries for years, but seeing it now from the other side, I have a new appreciation for what we are doing for these patients,” he says.
Physical Therapy Specialties
Physical therapy is key component of recovery from joint replacement surgery as well as other injuries and conditions. But why?
For chronic conditions, a physical therapist can help manage the condition, and sometimes even slow its progress. In the case of an injury or surgery, the physical therapist helps to guide the healing process.
“Physical therapy is a fine art. It has to be just right. If your doctor trusts a therapist, it’s because that therapist is proven,” explains Dr. DiBiase.
There are a number of specialties for which physical therapists may earn certifications, including:
- Cardiovascular & Pulmonary
- Clinical Electrophysiology
- Women's Health
To learn more about RWJ Hamilton’s rehabilitation services team, visit rwjhamilton.org/rehab.