A common shoulder surgery has become a testing ground for some novel painkilling techniques as doctors seek to reduce the use of prescription narcotics known as opioids.
Rotator-cuff surgery, which aims to repair a shoulder tendon that can get torn from sports, a bad fall or simple wear and tear, is among the most painful for patients to recover from. If nonaddictive painkilling techniques can be shown effective with this surgery, doctors hope they will be more widely adopted especially by orthopedic surgeons, who are among the most frequent prescribers of opioids.
The techniques might include injecting a nonaddictive anesthetic at the base of the neck to block pain signals, or sending a patient home with a catheter implanted under the skin to deliver doses of anesthetics for several days. Wearable icing devices and mechanical stimulation of the surgical site can reduce pain and swelling during physical therapy. And drug regimens seek to steer patients within a few days toward common medications such as Tylenol.
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