Are you tired of living with chronic shoulder pain that limits your mobility and disrupts your daily activities? If so, you're not alone. Many individuals, especially athletes, or those in their senior years, experience shoulder issues that can greatly impact their quality of life. Thankfully, medical advancements have led to a solution: shoulder replacements. Shoulder replacements have become a game-changer in orthopedic surgery, offering hope and relief to those suffering from debilitating shoulder conditions.

At Sports Medicine and Joint Replacement Specialists, our team of expert physicians are dedicated to providing patients with cutting-edge treatments for your sports-related or overuse injuries.

Here is how shoulder replacements work.

What Is A Shoulder Replacement?

A shoulder replacement, also referred to as shoulder arthroplasty, is a surgical procedure that involves replacing the damaged or diseased parts of the shoulder joint with artificial components. The shoulder joint, which is a ball-and-socket joint, allows for a wide range of movements and can be affected by conditions such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or a severe fracture. During the surgery, the surgeon removes the damaged parts of the joint, including the humeral head (upper arm bone) and the socket (scapula), and replaces them with artificial components made of metal and plastic. This procedure aims to alleviate pain, restore function, and improve the patient's quality of life. Physical therapy is typically recommended after the surgery to aid in recovery and rehabilitation.

It is important for individuals considering shoulder replacement to consult with a qualified orthopedic surgeon to determine if this procedure is suitable for their specific condition and needs.

What Causes The Need For A Shoulder Replacement?

There are several reasons why someone may need a total shoulder replacement. One common cause is osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease that occurs when the protective cartilage in the shoulder joint wears down over time. This can lead to pain, stiffness, and limited range of motion.

Other conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the joints, and post-traumatic arthritis, resulting from a previous injury, can also contribute to the need for a shoulder replacement. Additionally, fractures of the shoulder joint, rotator cuff tears, and avascular necrosis (a condition where the blood supply to the bone is disrupted) can all cause significant damage to the shoulder joint and necessitate a replacement.

For individuals who have tried non-surgical treatments such as medication, physical therapy, and injections without success, a shoulder replacement may be recommended as a viable option to relieve pain, restore function, and improve overall quality of life. It's important to consult with a healthcare professional to determine if a shoulder replacement is the most appropriate course of action based on individual circumstances and needs.

How Do Shoulder Replacements Work?

During the procedure, the surgeon makes an incision on the front or side of the shoulder to gain access to the joint. The damaged parts of the joint, including the humeral head and the socket, are removed. The humeral head is replaced with a metal ball component attached to a stem that is inserted into the upper arm bone. The socket is replaced with a plastic or metal cup that is fixed to the scapula using screws or cement.

In some cases, additional components may be used to stabilize the joint or improve its functionality. For example, if the rotator cuff, a group of muscles and tendons that helps to move and stabilize the shoulder, is damaged, it may be repaired or replaced during the surgery. After the replacement components are securely in place, the surgeon closes the incision with stitches or staples. A sterile dressing or bandage is applied to protect the wound.

Shoulder replacement surgery has a high success rate in relieving pain and improving function in patients with severe shoulder joint damage. However, as with any surgical procedure, there are risks involved, including infection, blood clots, nerve damage, and complications related to anesthesia.

It is important for patients considering shoulder replacement surgery to have a thorough discussion with their orthopedic surgeon to understand the potential benefits, risks, and expectations of the procedure.

What Does Shoulder Replacement Recovery Entail?

Shoulder replacement recovery is a crucial phase following the surgical procedure. The timeline and specific details of recovery can vary from person to person, but there are common aspects that patients typically experience. Immediately after the surgery, patients are closely monitored in the hospital for a few days to manage pain, monitor vital signs, and ensure that the incision is healing properly. Pain management techniques, including medication, may be administered during this time.

Physical therapy begins soon after the surgery to help regain range of motion and strengthen the shoulder joint. Initially, exercises focus on gentle movements and stretches to prevent stiffness and promote healing. As the recovery progresses, more intense exercises are gradually introduced to build strength and improve mobility. It is important to follow the physical therapist's guidance and complete the prescribed exercises regularly to optimize recovery. Patients may need to wear a sling or brace to support and protect the shoulder during the initial stages of recovery. The duration of sling use will depend on the surgeon's instructions and individual progress. It is vital to keep the incision site clean and dry to prevent infection.

The surgeon will provide detailed instructions on how to care for the incision, which may involve dressing changes and avoiding certain activities. Throughout the recovery period, regular follow-up appointments with the surgeon are necessary to monitor progress and address any concerns or complications that may arise. Full recovery can take several months to a year, during which time patience and commitment to the rehabilitation process are crucial.

Adhering to the surgeon's instructions, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and being consistent with physical therapy exercises can help individuals regain strength, restore function, and improve their quality of life after shoulder replacement surgery. It is important to note that every individual's recovery journey is unique, and consultation with a qualified healthcare professional is essential for personalized advice and guidance.

If you are considering shoulder replacement surgery, or are interested in what other options may be right for you, contact our expert physicians at Sports Medicine and Joint Replacement Specialists or schedule an appointment directly from our website today!