An Active Retirement: Getting Back To Doing What I Love

Article first published on Farrer Park Hospital

Painful and stiff shoulders in your later years do not have to hold you back from keeping fit and pursuing activities you enjoy. That was a priority for Madam Sakina Hoosenally, in her 70s, when she considered treatment options for her shoulder arthritis. She shared with us about her experience of living with shoulder arthritis and why she decided to go ahead with the surgery.

An Active Retirement

Though retired, Madam Sakina still taught yoga classes in the morning. She also swam daily when the weather permitted. Staying on her own, she desired to live independently for as long as possible.

Several years ago, both of her shoulders started causing her pain. She also had a hard time lifting her arms. “I found it was coming in the way of my yoga teaching … I couldn’t do many of the poses and it was just very frustrating,” she said.

Though the pain was not unbearable – she noted that many people could live with it – she found that it was interfering with her way of life, such as cooking for herself and affecting her sleep.

She reflected that she is now in her early 70s, and if she lives till her 90s, it won’t do to prolong the discomfort.

Seeking Treatment

After visiting several doctors, a friend recommended Dr. Ruben Manohara to Madam Sakina, a consultant orthopedic surgeon specializing in trauma management, sports injuries, and degenerative conditions.

Dr. Manohara diagnosed Madam Sakina with severe osteoarthritis of the shoulders. Shoulder arthritis affects 16% to 20% of those older than 65 years of age1, although it can occur as early as your 40s and 50s. In terms of its prevalence, he explained that there is no Singapore registry/data on shoulder-specific arthritis.

“Shoulder arthritis can be degenerative from overuse as well as genetic causes, from rheumatoid arthritis, from previous trauma, following massive rotator cuff tear and could occur following a joint infection,” he added. Besides the age related factor, he said the other risks factors include gender, race, suffering from gout and shoulder instability.

The condition refers to damage, usually wear and tear, of the cartilage, which covers the ends of bones to create a low-friction environment and allows the bones to glide smoothly over each other when the joints move. When the cartilage breaks down, the exposed bones may rub against each other and cause pain.

Symptoms often include shoulder pain, weakness, swelling or tenderness at the joint, and pain that could last for months or years2.

Dr. Manohara recalled that at that point, Madam Sakina had already tried treatments such as steroid injections and non-medical treatment like acupuncture, ayurvedic and physiotherapy, but to no avail. She was also unwilling to take painkillers over the long term and sought to resolve the pain with shoulder replacement surgery. “I was looking to restoring my mobility, and allowed me to continue exercising and teaching, and get on with my daily lifestyle.”

“When I first saw her in 2021, she was already living with the condition for four years. A replacement would have predictable, reliable good outcomes, in terms of pain relief, function and longevity of the implant,” Dr. Manohara explained.

“Such surgery would allow her to carry on with yoga, swimming, and other daily activities without pain and sleep without discomfort.

In addition, downtime was not an issue – even patients in their 70s to 80s usually recovered relatively quickly and easily after the procedure, compared to other major joint replacements.

For Madam Sakina, her friends’ support also helped her decide to go for surgery for her right shoulder.

The Key to Good Recovery

Following the smooth recovery of her right shoulder, Madam Sakina opted to also undergo surgery for her left shoulder about six to seven months later. She had her sights set on both shoulders being mobile enough for her to execute the downward facing dog pose and salutations in yoga that she had not been able to do for some years. She also wanted to be able to swim the freestyle stroke, which required both shoulders.

To her, an upbeat attitude was a huge help in recovering from the procedures. “Having gratitude and having a positive outlook is very important in recovery in your rehab,” she said. Madam Sakina also highlighted the importance of having a goal to look forward.

During the healing process, Madam Sakina was cautious when carrying heavy items such as groceries, usually using the arm that was not operated on to lift these. She also waited for a few more weeks before getting back to driving.

“I focus and work hard through exercise and regular physiotherapy to help me get back my mobility. For me, my right shoulder healed in 4 to 5 months after the operation while my left is about 90% healed 4 months since my surgery in March. For patients who are not dedicated to the rehab, it might take much longer,” she added.

After getting replacement surgery for both shoulders, carrying out her yoga poses was “much better than before”.

Aspiration for Health and Lifestyle

Looking back at the process of seeking and receiving treatment for shoulder arthritis, Madam Sakina said that the decision to undergo shoulder replacement surgery depends on the person’s aspiration for health and lifestyle.

“Not everyone may have the same urgency, need, or shared my goals.”

Receiving the treatment aligned with her personal life goals of sustaining her yoga practice and living independently for as long as possible. Though her left shoulder is still in the process of recovering, she is grateful for her regained mobility. She acknowledges that while a lot of hard work went into her rehabilitation, her mindset is that “it’s not going to get worse. It can only get better.

Orthopaedic Nurse Specialists Training With Arthrex

At Shoulder Elbow Orthopaedic Group, we understand the honour and responsibility bestowed on us when patients trust us with their health. Our orthopaedic multi-disciplinary team is committed to a shared purpose to ensure the best care for our patients. 

Arthrex Orthopaedic Nurses Specialists Training, Orthopaedic Training, Shoulder Elbow Orthopaedic Group, Orthopaedic Clinic Singapore

Hence it is not only crucial for our orthopaedic surgeons to be equipped with updated surgical skills and knowledge. However, it is also important that the Shoulder Elbow Orthopaedic Group’s orthopaedic nurse specialists receive training to update and improve their skills and knowledge. 

On 23 Feb 2022, we closed all Shoulder Elbow Orthopaedic Clinic branches so our nurses, accompanied by our orthopaedic specialists, could attend a hands-on skills training workshop. 

Arthrex Nurses Specialists Orthopaedic Training, Orthopaedic Training, Shoulder Elbow Orthopaedic Group, Orthopaedic Clinic Singapore

Thank you, Arthrex, for helping our nurses learn invaluable skills that will aid our aim always to provide better care for our patients.

Frozen Shoulder in Athletes

Frozen Shoulder in Athletes

An all-too-common malaise that is faced by many athletes is the pain of a frozen shoulder. This injury is often experienced following excessive use of the arm and shoulder during workouts and/or during competition or may even simply arise suddenly with little indication as to how the injury occurred.


What Is Frozen Shoulder?

Frozen shoulder is the gradual development of stiffness and pain in and around the shoulder joint area. This stiffness and pain are caused by the inflammation of the joint capsule of the shoulder. 

Frozen shoulder pain is often felt when rotating the shoulder joint or moving one’s arm away from the body. This pain causes limited reaching of the arms above the head or to the side. 

The initial stiffness and pain of a frozen shoulder often lead to the patient reducing shoulder movement, which in turn causes contraction of the joint capsule and decreased elasticity. As the joint capsule shrinks, it diminishes the protective lubricating fluid (synovial fluid) that is present between the upper arm bone (the humerus) and the joint capsule.

As the condition progresses, this joint capsule thickens, becomes inflamed and eventually inelastic. This results in the formation of thick bands of scar tissue forming between the joint capsule and the head of the humerus. 

These bands of scar tissue are referred to as adhesions and are the reason for the medical term for frozen shoulder – Adhesive Capsulitis (AC). 


Who Is at Risk of Developing Frozen Shoulder?

Frozen shoulder is predominantly felt by women (4 times more often) between the ages of 40 – 70. People with vascular diseases, diabetes, cancer, and Parkinson’s Disease are also at higher risk. 

It’s important to note here that people with diabetes are at a significantly higher risk compared to the other diseases. This is thought to be because diabetics have an increased formation of collagen due to having a high blood sugar level. This excess collagen goes on to form more numerous and thicker adhesions that are responsible for frozen shoulder.

Individuals who have bad posture or are immobile for long periods due to fractures, broken bones or other sports-related injuries are also at greater risk of developing frozen shoulder.

However, this does not mean that young people, including male athletes, are not at risk. It has been documented that athletes whose workout regime focuses on excessive pectoral (chest) and deltoid (shoulder) training can sometimes increase the risk of frozen shoulder. It is recommended to include periods of stretching before and after exercising to prevent damage to these muscles and the development of a frozen shoulder.

Athletes who are most at risk of frozen shoulder are those who use these muscles the most. Athletes playing games or participating in activities such as tennis, ping-pong, badminton, squash, rock climbing, golf, baseball, volleyball, and swimming will find themselves at the greatest risk. Essentially, any activity that requires intense use of the upper body.


Can You Stop Frozen Shoulder From Progressing?

There are three different phases of frozen shoulder; the freezing phase, frozen phase, and thawing phase. It is possible to accelerate the transition from each phase, shorten the time spent in each, and even stop frozen shoulder from progressing if treated quickly and adequately.


  • The Freezing Phase (Stage One)
    This is the primary stage whereby the shoulder begins to stiffen up or freeze, and pain is experienced upon movement of the arms and shoulder. Pain will continue to worsen during this phase as the shoulder gets more and more stiff. This phase can last anywhere between 2 to 9 months on average.
  • The Frozen Phase (Stage Two)
    This is the intermediate stage when pain begins to teeter off, but stiffness continues to increase, and those suffering will find their range of movement reduced tremendously. This phase can last anywhere between 4 to 12 months on average.
  • The Thawing Phase (Stage Three)
    This is the final stage and is the beginning of the healing process. Range of movement will improve, and there will be almost no pain at all. This phase can last anywhere between 12 to 42 months on average.
    A small percentage of people may not fully regain the complete range of movement of their shoulder even at the end of this phase.


What Treatments Are There for Frozen Shoulder?

There are various forms of treatments available to help stop frozen shoulder from progressing or relieve it more quickly. These treatments are in the form of oral medication, injections, home remedies and physiotherapy.

Doctors will typically prescribe anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants, and pain killers in the form of tablets to be taken orally to help alleviate symptoms in an attempt to move through the freezing and frozen phases more quickly. 

Besides oral medication, one increasingly popular treatment is cortisone injections. Cortisone is an anti-inflammatory medication that reduces swelling and scarring. It has been found that this form of treatment is best administered during the early stages of the condition. 

Nerve Blocks are also another injection style treatment to relieve frozen shoulder. With these injections, a small injection of local anaesthetic above the spine of the scapula is made, and an infiltration of a long-acting local anaesthetic around the suprascapular nerve is given. 

The long-lasting anaesthetic is usually given in combination with cortisone to reduce the sensitivity of the nerve, thereby reducing pain. This is normally done only when other treatments have failed to provide relief. 

One home remedy that can help with the pain is applying an ice pack to the affected area for 10 -15 minutes several times a day. The cold from the ice pack slows the flow of blood, causing vasoconstriction, which relieves pain. 

The removal of the ice pack then causes vasodilation which is when the blood rushes back into the veins. The blood brings along essential chemicals to the injury site that help speed up the healing process.

Most athletes should be very familiar with physiotherapy as sports injuries are part and parcel of the job. Physiotherapy is almost always recommended together with any other treatments and ultimately will be what helps revitalise the joint capsule’s elasticity and regain the shoulder’s full range of motion. 

The journey to full recovery may be long and arduous, but it is the most effective form of treatment known for this ailment.  


What Happens if Frozen Shoulder Is Not Treated?

A frozen shoulder may go away on its own if left untreated, but it may also increase the risk of a permanent loss of a full range of motion after the thawing stage. It could also lead to other ailments developing, such as tendonitis and neck pain – which often may only be resolved with surgery. 

Capsular Release is a minimally invasive surgery whereby the tight capsular tissues surrounding the shoulder joint are cut and then cauterised. The surgery is performed under local or general anaesthetic. 

Recovery time varies, but one can expect to fully recover from 6 weeks to 3 months after the surgery. Doctors will generally recommend not exerting or using the shoulder to carry things or reach above the head for a minimum of 2 weeks.


What Movement or Activities Aggravate Frozen Shoulder?

Contrary to what most might think, keeping your shoulder immobile will worsen your condition. This will increase the number of adhesions that form and extend the period by which your shoulder will hurt and be stiff. 

This also does not mean that you should expose the shoulder to pulling, jerky or jarring movements, as these kinds of motions can put extra stress on your tendons and lead to the development of tendonitis. 

The secret here is to find a balance.


What Are Some Exercises for Frozen Shoulder?

There are several different types of arm and shoulder exercises that can help increase your mobility and heal your frozen shoulder more quickly. 

These exercises range from various kinds of stretching movements that make use of the arms, shoulders, and elbows. As mentioned, physiotherapy is the best-known form of treatment for getting your shoulder unfrozen and back into shape in the fastest time possible. 


Cochin International Orthopaedic Summit 2021(CIOS 2021)— “Complications in Orthopaedics”

Date and Time: Oct 14 2021, 18.40 – 19.40

Dr Ruben Manohara has been invited to speak at Cochin International Orthopaedic Summit 2021. Where he will be part of the session – “Upper Limb Complication – Shoulder”. Dr Ruben Manohara will be giving two talks. They are:

  1. My Worst Case Around the Shoulder
  2. How to Avoid Complications in Clavicle Fracture Fixation

He is honoured to be part of the CIOS 2021 faculty and happy to contribute to the international orthopaedic community.

CIOS 2021 will feature an innovative combination of engaging interactions with international experts, cutting-edge surgical demonstrations, and instructional symposia that will offer live Q&A with premier faculty and renowned regional hosts about Complications in Orthopaedics from various branches of Orthopaedics. 

Fellow doctors can register for the Orthopaedic Summit via this link


Cochin International Orthopaedic Summit 2021, CIOS 2021, Dr Ruben Manohara, Shoulder Elbow Orthopaedic

The Reverse Total Shoulder Replacement | How Can It Help Your Patients?

Date and Time: Jan 6 2021, 12:45pm – 2:00pm
Guest Speaker: Dr Ruben Manohara, Consultant Orthopaedic/Shoulder Surgeon at Shoulder Elbow Orthopaedic Clinic,

Dr Ruben Manohara was invited by EISAI to speak to over 65 fellow doctors on the reverse shoulder arthroplasty and how it is considered one of the most significant technological advancements in shoulder reconstructive surgery over the last 30 years.

It reliably decreases pain and improves function for patients with rotator cuff-deficient shoulders. Such has been the success of this procedure, that it has led to a rapid expansion of the indications, to include more complex elective and trauma cases. Initially used in the more elderly patients, there is an increasingly higher demand in active ‘young seniors’.

Ruben Manohara, Shoulder Elbow Orthopaedic, EISAI

Ruben Manohara, Shoulder Elbow Orthopaedic, EISAI Ruben Manohara, Shoulder Elbow Orthopaedic, EISAI