Health hotline to focus on arm and shoulder injuries

Published: Friday, March 11 2011 11:37 p.m. MST

James Gardiner, MD, of the Intermountain Orthopedic Specialty Group, will answer questions about shoulder pain.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Rotator cuff problems account for more than half of the shoulder injuries that send 7.5 million American in search of medical help each year. And while you can hurt a shoulder while swimming, playing tennis, pitching and weightlifting, you can also do painful damage washing walls, hanging curtains, gardening or just missing a step and falling down.

Pain in the shoulder, the elbow, the wrist and the hand are common — and they are the topics of the Deseret News Intermountain Healthcare Hotline, where from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday Dr. James Gardiner, an orthopedic surgeon at the LDS Hospital Joint Center who regularly treats shoulder maladies, and his colleague Dr. Michael Raemisch, an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in hand and upper-extremity disorders, will take phoned-in questions. The hotline number is 1-800-925-8177, or 801-236-6061 on the Wasatch Front. They'll also answer questions posted during the hotline on Facebook at www.facebook.com/desnews.

Most of the patients Gardiner sees for shoulder woes have either endured months of shoulder pain or it has progressed to loss of function or weakness. He also sees shoulder injuries from falls, especially in winter, as well as nontraumatic injuries like tendonitis or a chronic tear in the rotator cuff.

Not all shoulder injuries require a surgical repair, he noted. A great many patients undergo physical therapy and/or steroid injections and use of anti-inflammatories.

"Platelet Rich Plasma" injections (PRP) are currently getting a lot of attention for easing shoulder discomfort. Gardiner said the jury's still out on how effective PRP really is because it has not been well studied yet.

Other common shoulder and nearby maladies include a break at the top of the arm's humerus, arthritis and shoulder dislocations.

Elderly women who have osteoporosis are more likely to suffer the fractured proximal humerus than others, while younger athletes are most likely to suffer from dislocations, he said. When someone has had a fractured hip or wrist, which are more common breaks, Gardiner said it's a good idea to look for osteoporosis and treat it as a way to prevent further breaks.

Older patients who are prone to falls can also benefit from a home evaluation by a therapist to look at changes that can be made, such as installing grab bars or getting rid of items that can lead to tripping, as a way to prevent injuries. Poor balance or visual impairment sometimes lead to those injury-causing falls.

Insidious pain can also result from arthritis.

As for dislocations, many result from trauma during activities. When the dislocation occurs in someone who is younger than about 20, it's more apt to be a recurrent problem than in older patients. In that case, surgery might be needed to tighten the joint to avoid it.

Signs of a shoulder problem include pain, limited range of motion, sliding and weakness.

The health hotline tackles a different topic the second Saturday of each month.

Health hotline

Saturday the health hotline focuses on shoulder, elbow, wrist and hand pain. From 10 a.m. to noon, Dr. Michael Raemisch, orthopedic surgeon specializing in hand and upper-extremity disorders, and Dr. James Gardiner, an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in shoulders, will take phoned-in questions. The number is 1-800-925-8177 or 801-236-6061 on the Wasatch Front. You can also post questions during that time on the Deseret News Facebook page, www.facebook.com/desnews

e-mail: lois@desnews.com

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