The Happiness Factor: living with chronic shoulder pain

living with chronic shoulder painA new study published within The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery 2017, has revealed the effect shoulder arthroplasty has on a patient’s happiness. A team from Harvard, led by Dr Jon J.P Warner, carried out the research to see just how much of a difference shoulder surgery can make to a patient’s quality of life.

Up until now, the majority of research into shoulder surgery has related solely to the procedure itself. However, as growing emphasis is starting to be placed upon patient-centred outcomes, a look into the psychology of patients can prove useful for surgeons.

Here, we’ll look at what the study revealed, and the difference shoulder arthroplasty can make on a patient’s psychological state.

What did the shoulder arthroplasty study reveal?

The study, entitled ‘Changes in Psychological Status and Health-Related Quality of Life Following Total Shoulder Arthroplasty’, involved 46 patients who were due to have a total shoulder arthroplasty. They each completed a Visual Analog Scale to measure pain, along with the Subjective Shoulder Value, the American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons Scale, the Abbreviated Version of the World Health Organization Quality of Life Scale and the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale.

It was revealed that total shoulder arthroplasty had a significant impact on anxiety and depression scores. It also boosted overall optimism and attitude. The only thing the surgery did not appear to do was improve the patient’s social relationships.

What it is like living with chronic shoulder pain

Chronic shoulder pain is known to have a significant impact on psychological health. The majority of patients tend to suffer in silence with shoulder pain for long periods of time before seeking treatment. The longer the pain is left untreated, the unhappier patients become. It is estimated that 1 in 10 people in the UK are living with chronic pain and it can negatively affect sleep, relationships, work and state of mind.

Early treatment can make a substantial difference to patient happiness

In terms of increasing patient happiness, it is vital treatment is sought as soon as possible. Patients need to seek help for shoulder pain much earlier if they want to avoid experiencing conditions such as depression and anxiety.

Chronic shoulder pain is categorised as pain that has been present for at least six months. So, if patients were to seek treatment earlier, they could not only avoid chronic pain, but also increase their overall happiness.

Surgeons are used to dealing with the mechanical side of shoulder surgery. However, Dr Warner now believes they need to start focusing more on the psychological side too. Doing so will help to improve patient satisfaction and ultimately lead to many seeking earlier treatment.

Overall, surgeons are starting to consider the happiness of their patients and this new research could prove to be an extremely useful guideline for them to follow. Total shoulder arthroplasty could significantly change a patient’s life.