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Q: What is involved with a total shoulder replacement?

Posted December 31, 2014 in Advice Column, Perry


A: As with any joint in your body, your shoulder can wear out and needs to be replaced. Unlike most other joints, however, the shoulder is very complex because it needs to move in so many different directions. The shoulder joint is somewhat unique in that muscles and tendons support it more than ligaments. The socket of the ball and socket is also shallow so there is not much structural support. All of the movement available in the shoulder puts it at risk for various injuries.


At times, the only option for an arthritic shoulder is a total shoulder replacement. As with other joint replacements, both sides of the joint (the ball and the socket) are replaced by metal and plastic. When this surgery is done, one of the muscles that is responsible for stabilizing the shoulder has to be cut and sewn back together. Because of this, recovery is quite long and extensive.


The shoulder will often be immobilized with limited activity for two months. There is extensive therapy during this time, and extending four to six months after surgery. Healing and strengthening will continue to happen for up to one year after surgery. While this recovery seems very slow and frustrating, the result is typically positive.

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