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Why does my (shoulder, knee, elbow, etc.) still ache?

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Why does my (shoulder, knee, elbow, etc.) still ache? It’s been 4 weeks since my surgery?!


As far as your body is concerned, surgery is serious trauma.  There’s a reason they knock you out for it.  Check out this excellent article on the history of surgery and anesthesia from the New England Journal of Medicine for more how those two developed together.  There is a lot of cutting and sawing, and as precise as the procedure may be, it’s still pretty brutal on your body.  

As far as healing time goes, it takes about 6-12 weeks for soft tissues to heal, and about 6-8 weeks for bones to heal, provided everything goes well.  Here are some healing considerations for the collarbone, as an example.

Pain in the affected area often follows the healing process, but not always in the same manner.  Patients with total hip replacements tend to feel very little pain after surgery, often because they had so much pain before surgery.  Patients who have had rotator cuff repairs or knee replacements tend to have somewhat higher levels of pain.

In general, pain is most intense in the first month after surgery.  Most people are in physical therapy during this time, so part of our job as clinicians is to minimize this pain and to help you understand why your body is feeling the way that it is.  Typically, we see pain gradually reduce on a week-to-week basis over the course of the recovery process.  The pain often varies day to day, but the overall trend will be for improvement, as illustrated below:
 pain vs time
There are many factors which impact healing time: age, how long the problem has been present, the type and extent of surgery that was performed, genetically-determined healing rates, and many others.  The key is to progressively challenge the involved tissues at a rate that will allow the tissue to heal and grow stronger.  

Just a quick example: I recently worked with a patient who had both knees replaced, about 4 months apart.  Her recovery after both surgeries went great, but the left knee took a bit longer than the right.  This was due to the fact that the left knee had significantly more arthritis than the right and the surgeon had to do a lot more cutting to perform the procedure.  

So in sum, everyone heals differently, and the same surgery performed on the same joint can have a different recovery time.  If you’re concerned about your recovery rate, speak to your physician or call one of our locations for a free consultation.

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Home office Petoskey West Clinic
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Petoskey, Petoskey East & Boyne City

Our Petoskey clinic is located within the Bay Street Orthopedic building, 4048 Cedar Bluff Drive. 231-347-9300 [map]

Our Petoskey East clinic is located on the corner of Mitchell & Division, 345 N. Division 231-348-7950.[map]

Our Boyne City Clinic is located in the SOBO district, 210 S Lake Street 231-459-4750 map

Charlevoix & Cheboygan

Our Charlevoix clinic is located in the Kmart Plaza, at 06510 M-66, 231-547-0380 [map] 

Our Cheboygan clinic is located south of town, 9445 N Straits Hwy, 231-627-7201 [map]

Harbor Springs & Indian River

Our Harbor Springs clinic is located next the Harbor Springs airport, 8452 M-119 Harbor Plaza, 231-348-7002. [map]                                        

Our Indian River clinic is right in the heart of downtown, 3805 South Straits Hwy, 231-238-4880. [map]