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Healthy You

This Joint Is Jumping: Restoring an Active Routine

Friday, March 30, 2018 8:19 AM

Lynne Creighton is a spirited, 5-foot-tall force to be reckoned with. At 64 years old, Creighton dances—both tap and ballet. She also runs, lifts weights, swims and plays golf. Friends thought she was unstoppable until severe arthritis pain in her shoulder wrecked her golf swing and perfect pirouette.


Genetics, plus an old injury from weight lifting, caused Creighton to develop rotator cuff tear arthropathy, a type of degenerative arthritis that develops over time after the rotator cuff is damaged.

“The pain was so bad that I couldn’t swing a club and I couldn’t raise my right arm above my shoulder,” said the Evanston resident. “My body was talking to me, and it was time for help.”

Sophisticated Surgical Solution

Help came from NorthShore Orthopaedic Institute Surgeon Steve Levin, MD, a nationally recognized expert in reverse total shoulder replacement surgery. This revolutionary procedure switches the traditional position of the metal ball and socket of the shoulder implant. The patient thus relies on the deltoid muscle, instead of the rotator cuff, to power and move the arm. It is the foremost solution for patients like Creighton whose rotator cuff muscles are no longer functioning due to tears and arthropathy.

While confident he could help her, Dr. Levin presented Creighton’s case before an orthopaedic conference to invite collaboration. A longtime physician for the USA Rugby national team, Dr. Levin has treated professional athletes at the top of their game. Yet, he was keenly aware that Creighton’s small, 100-pound frame made her a unique case.

Patient-Centered Care                                                         

“I was confident, but I’m also very thorough and take extra precaution with such cases,” said Dr. Levin, who holds an academic appointment at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. “Part of the bone on top of her shoulder had eroded. This causes concern for possible fracture after the surgery because the deltoid muscle attaches to this bone, and puts added stress on it.”

Creighton liked the fact that Dr. Levin sought outside opinions. “I liked his candor and his bedside manner,” she said. “We had this really nice collaboration that many patients never have with their doctors. We’re almost like family.”

Four months after her November surgery and physical therapy, Creighton was back to her active life: dancing, weight lifting, swimming, running—and yes, back to golf, too. Her first time on the links postsurgery, she smacked the ball 220 yards off the tee.

“I couldn’t believe it!” she exclaimed. “I just thought, ‘Wowee! There’s no pain!’”