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Patient Stories

Looking for a Shoulder to Lean On
By Healthy Life 2009 Winter

Alfred Newman, of Peabody, could bear with most of the aches and pains in his shoulders, chalking it up to getting older. But when the retired carpenter and electrical engineer started struggling to put his belt on and to even get himself dressed, he knew he needed to take action.

As an avid woodworker, painter and gardener, Newman could no longer do what he enjoyed most. “I had near-constant pain in my right shoulder, and I could always tell when we were getting damp weather,” said Newman. “My left shoulder had no pain, but over the years I had less and less mobility in it. I couldn’t reach around my back or over my head. I had tried to take piano lessons, but I just couldn’t move my arm enough and I had to quit.”

Newman finally talked to his primary care physician who referred him to NSMC orthopedic surgeon, Todd O’Brien,M.D. Dr. O’Brien determined that Newman had osteoarthritis in both shoulders. The cartilage (the cushioning disk between the ball and socket) was worn away, leaving the bones to rub together, causing pain and limiting movement. In addition, Newman also had developed bony growths in his left shoulder that dramatically limited range of motion and caused pain.

Dr. O’Brien concluded that Newman needed total joint replacement in both shoulders. The procedure involves replacing the joint surfaces of both the ball and socket of the shoulder. The ball (the damaged end of the upper arm) is replaced with a metal surface, and the socket (the damaged joint surface of the shoulder blade) is replaced with a high-tech plastic surface. “Shoulder replacement is not as common as hip or knee replacement, but is becoming more popular as the baby boomers age,” says Dr. O’Brien, who is fellowship trained in shoulder and elbow surgery.

In December 2007, Newman had left shoulder replacement surgery at NSMC Salem Hospital. Though he noticed an improvement right away, the full recovery took almost a year. He was in physical therapy for three months and continued the exercises on his own. After about six months, he regained near full movement and strength in the shoulder with no pain and was able to start woodworking and his other hobbies. “I didn’t have any pain after the surgery, but the rehabilitation was a lot of work.” said Newman. He had his second shoulder replaced in October 2008 and is currently in physical therapy at Shaughnessy- Kaplan Rehab Physical and Occupational Therapy Clinic in Peabody, which is affiliated with NSMC.

“I didn’t take the decision to have surgery lightly,” said Newman. “I talked to my doctor and got his recommendation for the best surgeon and specifically chose North Shore Medical Center because I knew it had everything I wanted. And it was close to home, which made it easier for my wife.”