When Susan Eramo-Webster first started to experience pain in her shoulder about four years ago she tried to ignore it. But eventually it hurt to brush her teeth and getting a good night’s sleep was difficult; even walking was bothersome. She had a torn rotator cuff and was trying to avoid having surgery to repair it.
After two cortisone shots in a span of 15 months, Evan Peck, MD, a Sports Medicine Specialist at Cleveland Clinic Florida’s Tomsich Health and Medical Center in West Palm Beach, told Susan it was time to consider a surgical repair – one of her tendons was torn right off the bone.
Susan took Dr. Peck’s advice and one year after she had minimally invasive arthroscopic rotator cuff repair surgery, the active 64-year-old is back to exercising and “doing great,” she says. “I’m at 95 percent of where I was pre-injury.”
The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles and tendons that help stabilize the shoulder and assist with movement. When a rotator cuff injury results in a loss of strength and mobility, surgery is often necessary to repair it. Rotator cuff surgery has come a long way with options that involve minimally invasive procedures and opioid-free approaches.
“I was so happy to be in such good hands. One of the biggest worries when you move to a new place is how to find the best doctors. I had nothing but wonderful care at Cleveland Clinic.”
Susan’s surgery was performed by Vani Sabesan, MD, of Cleveland Clinic Florida’s Levitetz Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. Susan liked Dr. Sabesan’s approach to pain management, which minimizes the use of prescription painkillers and focuses on “pre-hab”—preparation for the surgery that informs the patient on what to expect and encourages exercises to make the area stronger prior to surgery. Post-operative physical therapy is also started earlier. Susan began therapy two weeks after surgery and continued with it for six weeks.
“Patients may have a lot of inflammation, stiffness and scarring post-surgery,” Dr. Sabesan said. “Moving the area earlier allows the body to re-adapt, and it activates the muscles. It also seems to help with the pain.”
A native of Massachusetts, Susan moved to South Florida just before her shoulder had begun bothering her. She was familiar with Cleveland Clinic through the patients she took care of as a medical aesthetician at her former practice. Many of them, she said, had traveled to and received care at Cleveland Clinic. So, she decided she wanted to go there for her for care as well.
Susan Eramo-Webster is able to raise her arm after surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff (Courtesy Cleveland Clinic)
“She was amazing,” Susan said of Dr. Sabesan. “I was so happy to be in such good hands. One of the biggest worries when you move to a new place is how to find the best doctors. I had nothing but wonderful care at Cleveland Clinic.”
It is common to tear rotator cuffs. A tear can negatively affect quality of life, keeping you from being able to sleep at night and perform other everyday activities.
“The pain can be so debilitating,” Dr. Sabesan says. “But since it is in an upper extremity and doesn’t usually affect walking and getting around, people do tend to put off fixing it.”
Physical therapy can help but sometimes a surgical repair is the most effective treatment.