Anne Conner’s Treatment for Snapping Scapula Syndrome

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securedownloadAnne Conner has been a dental hygienist in Craig, CO for many years.  Her fulfilling career is marked by an unending passion for providing outstanding dental care and service to each and every patient that sits in her chair.

It’s this chair that began to cause Anne pain in her neck and back. “As a dental hygienist, your posture is compromised because every day you sit in an awkward position, hunched over, providing dental care to patients. You get used to sitting in this position and you don’t realize the damage it does to your joints,” said Anne.

For a period of several years, Anne began to see some local doctors. She visited a chiropractor and went to physical therapy. The “stabbing, hot knife” feeling that vibrated through her shoulder and neck became worse and worse until she could not work as effectively or as much.  The doctors she visited locally continued to prescribe narcotic pain medications to help ease the pain, but nobody would give her answers.

“I had a lot going on during 2008 and 2009.  My son was in high school and had just recovered from two major surgeries performed by Dr. Millett,” said Anne (Read about Brady’s sternoclavicular dislocation).  “I finally had to do something for my own pain and since we had spent so much time at the Steadman Clinic for Brady’s injuries, I decided to make an appointment with their spine specialist, Dr. Donald Corenman. The pain I was experiencing was affecting my life and affecting my career. I was hopeful that The Steadman Clinic could help me, just like they helped my son.”

Because Anne assumed that her pain was being caused by some part of her spine, she went to see Dr. Corenman. The moment that she entered the clinic doors, she felt a peaceful calm come over her. “It was the same exact feeling I had months prior when we were there for Brady. I just knew they were going to fix my problem.”

Dr. Corenman examined Anne and told her that the problem was not in her spine, but in fact, was associated with her shoulder. He stood up and told her he would like to bring in his friend and colleague, Dr. Peter Millett to take a look at her. Unaware that the Conner family had just spent two years with Dr. Millett for Brady’s sternoclavicular dislocation and a torn ACL and MCL, he looked at Anne as she began to beam from ear to ear.

“I could not believe that after all we had been through, I was going to be a patient of Dr. Millett’s. I could not help but giggle.  I was actually worried he was going to walk in and say ‘oh no, not again’, but that wasn’t the case. He came and gave me the biggest hug and the same compassion and thoughtfulness that he showed Brady, he immediately gave to me.”

It turns out that the pain wasn’t coming from Anne’s spine at all. It was sharp shoulder pain caused from years of being hunched over in her dental chair. This type of problem is frequently misdiagnosed as trigger points, or unexplained spine pain, but Dr. Millett examined Anne and immediately determined that she had a snapping scapula marked with shoulder and scapulothoracic bursitis. Snapping scapula syndrome (scapula refers to the shoulderblade) occurs when the shoulder blade glides or grates over the ribs of the upper back area. The condition is painful, as in Anne’s case, and is marked by a snapping or cracking sound. Instability in the area is also a common symptom.  Inflammation in the area is often the culprit that sets snapping scapula syndrome into motion, and it is usually caused by an action or position that is repetitive, and motions that are done over and over again.  Sharp shoulder pain that is constant and sometimes blurred by what may be assumed as a spinal condition is usually what confuses many patients and treating doctors.

Dr. Millett explained to Anne everything there was to know about snapping scapula syndrome. He told her that using arthroscopic surgery to re-contour the scapula would be needed in order to correct the condition and would also correct the shoulder bursitis that was also occurring.  In December of 2009, Dr. Millett performed surgery on Anne. The surgery was a success and today Anne is pain free and has resumed her normal job.  She thought she might need spinal surgery but instead she underwent a minimally-invasive arthroscopic procedure that cured her almost instantly.

“I feel great and have had no problems with my shoulder area since my surgery. When I think about how much pain I went through, and how much pain my son went through as well, before we found Dr. Millett, I get upset, but then I just am overwhelmed by thankfulness.  I feel like no matter what we are faced with, Dr. Millett and his team of talented colleagues at The Steadman Clinic can fix it. They are like angels to me and my family and we will be forever grateful.”

While clinical studies support the effectiveness of these procedures, individual results may vary. There are no guarantees of outcome. All surgeries involve the risk of major complications. Before you decide on surgery, discuss treatment options with your doctor. Understanding the risks of each treatment can help you make the best decision for your individual situation.  Always ask your doctor about all treatment options, as well as their risks and benefits. Only your doctor can determine the appropriate treatment for your situation. The clinical information and opinions, including any inaccuracies expressed in this material by patients or doctor are not necessarily those of Peter Millett, MD and should not be considered as substitute for medical advice provided by your doctor.