Ask a Shoulder Dr. – When Is The Best Time To Get Shoulder Surgery?

If you’re dealing with chronic pain or pain from sudden trauma – be it in your shoulder, elbow, neck, back, or lower body – the question many fixate on is this: do I need surgery? Despite technological advancements in orthopedic surgery that make it safer and minimally invasive (such as arthroscopic surgery that uses a miniature camera to view injuries), depending on the diagnosis and the severity of the pain, surgery is often not necessary, and is often seen as a last resort for treatment. For example, a fracture to the proximal humerus (the bone in your upper arm) due to trauma is generally treated without invasive operation, but occasionally surgery is recommended to avoid bumps that can occur if the bones do not heal properly on their own. In instances where the pain stems from injuries other than the bone – tendinitis, torn ligaments, ruptures, or arthritis – traditional treatments such as physical therapy, medications, and corticosteroid or PRP injections are often considered before surgery enters the conversation.

It’s Not a Matter of If, But When

However, in the case that surgery is recommended as the best route forward by your shoulder doctor or future shoulder surgeon, a question that many forget to ask themselves before undergoing a procedure is: when is the best time of year to have surgery? This may seem like a silly question, and if the need for surgery is urgent, an irrelevant one, but if you have the luxury of choosing whether to have your surgery in spring, summer, fall, or winter, the decision can have a drastic impact on your quality of life during recovery.

Looking at it from an economic standpoint, if you happen to be a teacher or have some other job with time off during summer (or another season), then it would make sense to have surgery at the beginning of that natural “off-season.” Conversely, for the vast majority of the population with jobs that do not have these built-in breaks, the thought of sacrificing a summer to recover from surgery sounds downright depressing. That is not to mention the joys of potentially being trapped indoors with your children bouncing off the walls 24/7 in the ecstasy of summer vacation. For all these folks, especially those living in geographic areas with harsh winters of snow, sleet, or rain (here’s looking at you, Seattle), the best time to hole up in the house and recover from surgery is when that is likely what they would be doing anyway: fall and winter. Save the summer months for basking in the precious sunlight and taking advantage of the long hours of light to be active outside; that list of movies or TV shows to watch will still be there when fall or winter rolls around and you need to stay inside to rehabilitate from surgery.

If you are unsure if you need surgery, see a shoulder doctor. Shoulder surgeons are here to provide the proper direction and steps in any season of surgery. Our office is open for consultation if you are looking for a shoulder specialist in Seattle!

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