For Marty Gavinski, as the years mounted, so too did the list of activities he couldn’t do because of shoulder pain.
“It sounded like gravel when I moved my arm,” he says. “This had been going on for years. I stopped doing more and more of the things that I enjoyed.”
The Menasha resident had always relished living a full life. That included spending time at his cabin, hiking, pontoon boating, fishing, golfing, and bike riding.
Years ago, Marty stopped golfing because swinging a club became too painful. More recently, he could no longer throw a ball to his dog, and he stopped cycling. Prior to experiencing shoulder pain, he rode his bike up to 5,000 miles every year.
“Last summer, it was to the point where I couldn’t cast for fishing,” he says.
Beyond getting sidelined from his favorite activities, Marty’s shoulder pain kept him from sleeping comfortably, a typical complaint among shoulder pain sufferers.
Connecting to Care
Experiences like Marty’s are common among those suffering from shoulder pain.
The shoulder has the most range of motion of any joint in the body. It can move overhead, to the side, and behind the body, to name a few. That large range of motion also makes the shoulder prone to injury.
The shoulder is a challenging and complex joint to treat, says Dr. Eric Erickson, an Orthopedic Surgeon and Sports Medicine Specialist with ThedaCare Orthopedic Care.
Shoulder pain sufferers almost always start with a non-surgical treatment plan. That can begin with resting the joint and modifying activities. It can also include physical therapy, medications, and injections. Pain management specialists can offer additional options, including cognitive behavioral therapy and minimally invasive pain management procedures.
“While I’m a surgeon, I spend a lot of time telling people, ‘You don’t need surgery; we have better options for you,’” Dr. Erickson says.
However, when people have exhausted other treatments and are still experiencing pain, surgery can become a good option.
That was the case for Marty, who had tried many types of treatment and still suffered from debilitating arthritis in his shoulder.
“When someone gets to the point of the proverbial bone-on-bone type of pain and discomfort, we treat them with the appropriate procedure,” Dr. Erickson says. “In Marty’s case, that was a total shoulder arthroplasty.”
Marty underwent an anatomic shoulder replacement. This is an outpatient procedure that’s done through a tiny incision. The term anatomic means that your replacement looks like the shoulder you have, but it’s replaced with metal and plastic components.
Marty had his surgery at ThedaCare Medical Center-Orthopedic, Spine and Pain in October 2022. He says he was a bit nervous going into the procedure, having heard about others’ experiences with difficult recoveries. Once Marty arrived for his surgery, however, he felt confident.
“Dr. Erickson was great from the first time I met him. His whole staff was wonderful,” he says. “I got off the elevator, and there was a nurse there waiting for me. There was somebody there from that point on.”
Marty says he was also pleasantly surprised with how quickly the procedure went. From the time he left his home to the time he returned, it was only six hours.
From there, Marty says his recovery progressed smoothly. He didn’t even have to take time off of work.
“I had virtually no pain through the whole process,” he says.
Following his surgery, Marty worked with a physical therapist for six weeks and did exercises at home.
“Do what the doctor says. Do what the therapists say,” he says of the rehabilitation work. “I attribute the fast recovery to that.”
Even though everything progressed smoothly for Marty, complete recovery took time. It takes most people five to six months to fully recover from an anatomic shoulder replacement, Dr. Erickson says.
Now several months out from his surgery, Marty says he’s back to doing the activities he’s always loved. While he hasn’t returned to golfing, he’s gotten back to throwing a ball to his dog and riding his bike, as well as his hobbies of photography and creating stained glass works of art.
“My quality of life has definitely improved,” he says. “I can do pretty much everything I did 10 years ago.”