A shoulder replacement is an operation performed to replace a worn-out shoulder joint. The joint becomes worn-out most commonly as a result of arthritis but can also occur due to trauma, inflammation (such as with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis), infection, overuse, as well as rotator cuff tears.
During the surgery, the problematic ball-and-socket joint of the shoulder is replaced with a prosthetic ball-and-socket. The “ball” at the top of the upper arm bone (humerus) is replaced with a metal ball, and the “socket” of the shoulder blade (scapula) is replaced with a plastic socket. In reverse procedures, the placement is switched (a ball added to the scapula and socket to humerus) to allow the deltoid muscles to power arm movement rather than the muscles of the rotator cuff.
Either way, this surgery typically takes a few hours to perform and may involve a day or two in the hospital.
Post-op recovery after a total shoulder joint replacement is generally about 6 weeks.
Immediately after the operation, you will be encouraged to keep the shoulder as still and immobile as possible. You will most likely be put into a sling for stabilization and instructed to keep your arm rested so that the tendon has an opportunity to heal. You may be instructed to continue to wear the sling in some situations for up to 6 weeks following the surgery.
Pain management during this time may include frequently applying ice to the area to help reduce the swelling and reduce pain. Prescription and over-the-counter pain medicines may also be recommended.
Your physician may instruct you not to lift anything heavier than a few pounds as well as to avoid driving for the first few weeks after the procedure. After the first 6 weeks, recovery progresses according to the schedule your doctor sets out for you. In most cases, this means you’ll continue to be in recovery mode for 3 – 6 months following surgery. After all, it takes time for shoulder tissue to heal and, in the case of a rotator cuff tear, time for the tendon to heal and re-attach properly to the bone.
Depending on the type of work you do, you may be able to return to work at the 6-week mark (or earlier). Driving may be resumed at this point as well.
Physical Therapy After a Shoulder Replacement Surgery
You will very likely be instructed to participate in physical therapy, depending on your health, physical condition, the type of procedure performed, and any other special considerations.
Initially, the exercises a physical therapist guides you through will be light and gentle, to help mobilize your shoulder joint and prevent it from stiffening. The exercises will gradually become more difficult, the aim of which is to strengthen the weakened muscles of the shoulder and improve overall function.
How successfully you recover is due in large part to your efforts after the surgery. Be sure to follow your surgeon’s post-op instructions, rest your arm, restrict your activities as directed, and perform physical therapy according to schedule.
To learn more about shoulder replacement recovery, call Total Orthopaedic Care at (954) 735-3535. To schedule an appointment, you can call us or use our secure online appointment request form.