Date: 15 July 2016
I had long standing shoulder pain that made it very difficult to get more than four hours a night sleep. Sleep deprivation from the discomfort severely affected all aspects of my life, not least the physical side of our relationship, which was of great concern to me.
When the shoulder pain did not get better, I asked my GP to investigate treatment options. This led to the opportunity to take part in the CSAW trial (Can Shoulder Arthroscopy Work), a trial that compared three treatments for shoulder impingement pain.
I met the trial’s principal investigator and had the three trial options explained to me briefly: wait and see if the condition improved on its own; arthroscopy - keyhole surgery to look at the inside of the shoulder joint with a camera; and arthroscopic surgery - keyhole surgery to shave off a small piece of bone that may have been pinching the nerve.
The principal investigator told me that if I was unhappy with the results of treatment, I could then be treated with one of the other trial options. I had been allocated one of the operative treatments, but wasn’t told which one as this could have biased the study.
Immediately after going ahead with one of the two surgical options, I found that my shoulder had limited movement and I wasn’t sure if this was to be expected. I would have liked to receive more guidance on what the first 24 hours would be like after the operation and on how to cope with life in the subsequent days and weeks. Talking to people who had received the treatments would have helped.
I didn’t automatically receive advice from a physiotherapist. Sometime after the operation, I went back to my GP and asked for physiotherapy, concerned about my shoulder not working properly.
I then had a course of ten half hour visits to an NHS physiotherapist. Initially, the treatment seemed too broad, but the physio listened to me explaining my exact problems and tailored the treatment much better as a result. I was also very motivated to do daily exercises at home.
Overall, the physiotherapy approach worked - and I was able to use my shoulder again with only about one night a week being disrupted by some temporary discomfort. The impact of the treatment fundamental improved my quality of life.
Patient and trial participant Richard talks about taking part in surgical research to investigate and treat longstanding shoulder pain.