Shoulder Replacement

Shoulder replacement surgery is an effective procedure to help relieve shoulder pain and help patients resume everyday activities. First developed to fix fractures, shoulder replacement surgery is commonly used today to treat a variety of painful conditions.

Shrug Off the Burden of Shoulder Pain

From the pitcher’s mound to the job site to picking up the grandkids, shoulder pain is a common part of life that doesn’t have to be part of yours. Our team works with you, your condition and your goals to decide together on the perfect shoulder treatment for you — including total replacement, an Orthopaedics East specialty.


  • In shoulder replacement surgery, damaged parts are replaced with artificial components.
  • Replacement of an arthritic or injured shoulder is less common than in knees or hips, but typically offers all the same benefits — including pain relief and restoration of movement.
  • Restoring shoulder movement is particularly important because it’s the mechanism that allows your arm to rotate in every direction. Severe shoulder pain or reduced movement will likely limit the typical daily activities you can comfortably do. This may mean you’re ready to consider shoulder replacement surgery.


What causes shoulder pain?

Shoulder problems may arise because of injury, repetitive overuse, or even underuse. This can result in pain, which may be localized to the joint or travel to areas around the shoulder or down the arm. Damage to the shoulder joint may result in instability, causing a sensation of the shoulder feeling like it is going to pop out of place. Pain when raising the arm can be caused by soft tissues getting trapped between the bones (impingement). Impingement is particularly common in sports activities that involve repetitive overhead arm motions, such as pitching baseballs. Over time these issues can lead to arthritic changes, which may warrant a shoulder replacement.


Your shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint made up of three primary bones: your upper arm bone, your shoulder blade, and your collarbone. The ball of your upper arm bone fits into a shallow socket in your shoulder blade. Total shoulder joint replacement removes and replaces both the ball of your upper arm and the socket of your shoulder blade with artificial implants.



In a reverse total shoulder replacement, the ball and socket are switched. The metal ball is fixed to the socket of the shoulder blade, and the artificial socket is fixed to the top of the upper arm bone. This replacement generally works better for people with severe arm weakness, severe arthritis and/or rotator cuff tearing.



Revision surgery is for individuals who have previously had a shoulder replacement, since the material in shoulder implants naturally wears over time. Shoulder revision is the replacement of all or some parts of the original implant. While there are no guarantees and individual implant longevity will vary, a shoulder replacement (implant) typically lasts 15-20 years. Symptoms that may trigger a revision surgery are the same as those proceeding the original replacement, primarily pain.

Frequently Asked Questions
What is a shoulder replacement?

Also called shoulder arthroplasty, shoulder replacement is a surgical procedure in which the damaged or diseased joint is removed and replaced by an artificial shoulder implant designed to move like a normal, healthy joint.

What are the reasons for shoulder replacement?

Shoulder replacement is often a last resort for patients who:

  • Have a painful, disabling joint disease of the shoulder, like severe arthritis.
  • Have tried non-operative interventions, such as medication and physical therapy, without success
  • Are not likely to achieve satisfactory results from other procedures

Undergoing a shoulder replacement is a very personal decision that only you can make in consultation with your orthopedic physician.

What happens during shoulder replacement surgery?

Your shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint made up of three primary bones: your upper arm bone, your shoulder blade, and your collarbone. The ball of your upper arm bone fits into a shallow socket in your shoulder blade. Shoulder replacement removes and replaces all (total) or some (partial) of the ball of your upper arm and the socket of your shoulder blade with artificial implants.

How long is the hospital stay?

Your length of hospital stay will depend on your personal situation and whether the procedure is performed in an inpatient (typically hospital) or outpatient (typically hospital or ambulatory surgery center) setting. The average length of stay for an inpatient procedure is one to three days vs. an outpatient procedure that generally does not require an overnight stay. The length of your stay is going to vary per your unique circumstances and your ability to partake and progress in physical therapy.

A case manager is normally assigned to help with your rehabilitation and discharge plans. Usually patients are discharged home from surgery, but your care providers will determine if home health or alternative post-operative care is necessary.

How long is the recovery?

Recovery varies with each person. Typically, patients will take pain medication for a few days and begin physical and occupational therapy the day after their surgery, typically several brief sessions a day. Usually a case manager is assigned to advise you throughout your rehabilitation. It is essential to follow your orthopedic physician and care team’s instructions regarding home care during the first few weeks, especially concerning your prescribed exercise program. You should be able to resume most light daily activities within three to six weeks. Some discomfort during activity and at night is common for several weeks, and complete recovery can take from three to six months.

What are the complications?

As with any surgery, there are risks of complications; however, they are relatively rare. Blood clots are one of the primary concerns post-surgery. Your orthopedic surgeon may prescribe one or more measures, like medications or exercises, to prevent a clot from forming.

What is the success rate?

Shoulder replacement is one of the most important surgical advances of this century, helping more than 53,000 Americans relieve their pain and get back to enjoying normal, everyday activities each year.

When will I be able to go back to a normal daily routine, such as going to work or driving a car?

This is a decision that only you and your orthopedic physician can make. However, there are some general guidelines that your physician may give you:

  • Don’t tire yourself out — a good balance of exercise, rest, and relaxation is best for helping your body heal and gain strength.
  • When to resume driving a car, going to work, and/or participating in sports activities are all highly individualized decisions. Be sure to follow your doctor or orthopedic physician and care team’s advice.
Are there activities I cannot do after shoulder replacement surgery?

When fully recovered, most people with artificial shoulders can return to work and normal daily activities without any problems. Keep in mind, however, that certain activities could affect how long your artificial shoulder will last and how well it will perform. A good rule of thumb is that your physical activities should not cause pain during or after you do them. You also should not push your joint to its extreme ranges of motion. If you are considering doing any of the following activities, you should discuss them first with your orthopedic physician:

  • Any activity involving lifting or pushing heavy objects
  • Any activity that places excessive stress on your shoulder joint
  • Hammering and other forceful arm/shoulder movements
  • Boxing and other arm/shoulder impact sports
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