Health Blog

Welcome to the ongoing series of blog posts from UTMB Health focusing on key aspects of maintaining your health

women holding shoulder in pain

Alleviating Shoulder and Elbow Pain

Living with pain isn’t fun, and it isn’t something you should just brush off. If you’re experiencing severe shoulder or elbow pain, there are several nonsurgical treatments available as well as surgical techniques with a successful track record.

Dr. Jeremy Somerson, UTMB Health orthopedic surgeon specializing in shoulder and elbow surgery, sees patients of all ages, with rotator cuff issues making up the largest part of his practice. His training has equipped him to treat a wide range of shoulder and elbow issues.

Shoulder Replacement

People who experience shoulder pain so severe that they cannot sleep, focus on their daily routine or enjoy everyday activities may be prescribed steroids, anti-inflammatory medication and physical therapy before considering a shoulder replacement, or arthroplasty.

“Just like in other joints, it’s something that develops over time,” Dr. Somerson says. “It could be folks who have had a problem when they were younger or had a shoulder dislocation or had a rotator cuff problem, but it could also just be that they have a disposition to arthritis.”

For shoulder replacement, Dr. Somerson uses three-dimensional planning to make sure the implant is a perfect fit and uses surgical techniques that are well-established and based on the latest science.

He says the main goal of the procedure is to help people return to living and enjoying their daily lives, and as shoulder replacements generally have a 15-to-20-year lifespan, most patients will not need another surgery in their lifetime, as shoulder replacement is most common in individuals at or near retirement age.

Chronic Elbow Pain

Patients as young as their 30s may seek treatment for chronic elbow pain—sometimes called tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow. Most issues aren’t actually sports-related, but due to the repetitive arm motion employed in many jobs, like painting, home remodeling, hair cutting and house cleaning.

“Most of the time it gets better on its own. Less than 5 percent of people I see with tennis elbow end up having a procedure. Most people within six months will be better,” Dr. Somerson says.

For those who do require a procedure, Dr. Somerson uses a technology called Tenex, which is a minimally invasive technique using ultrasonic energy to safely break down and remove diseased tissue while leaving healthy tendon unharmed—providing fast, effective relief without ever leaving the doctor’s office. Patients can safely drive themselves home afterward and can resume everyday activities within a few weeks, with no additional therapy needed.

In addition to these procedures, Dr. Somerson provides minimally invasive arthroscopic shoulder surgery, arthritis treatment, treatment of unstable joints and repair of broken bones. If you are experiencing shoulder or elbow pain, learn more about your treatment options at utmbhealth.com/orthopedics/hand-elbow-shoulder.