05 Aug How Long Does It Take to Recover from Shoulder Replacement Surgery?
Shoulder replacement surgery involves replacing part or all of the shoulder joint with artificial components. This procedure is usually required to treat joint damage caused by injury, wear, and tear, or arthritis. Although it can take time to recover from a shoulder replacement, with advances in medicine and surgical techniques, patients are able to get back to their daily routine sooner.
The shoulder is a complex ball-and-socket joint, with the ball at the top of the upper arm bone (the humerus) in the shallow socket of the shoulder blade (scapula). The joint is lined with a strong, protective layer of tissue, known as cartilage, which prevents the bones from rubbing together and allows them to move smoothly. Damage to the cartilage can make movement in the joint painful and stiff.
Shoulder replacement surgery can significantly improve movement in the joint and reduce pain and stiffness. This surgery is typically only considered when other less invasive treatments, such as physical therapy and joint injections, have been fully explored and no longer provide relief.
Types of Shoulder Replacement Surgery
There are different types of shoulder replacement surgery available and the option that is right for you will depend on factors such as the extent of the damage, the condition of the muscles around the joint, how strong the bones are, and the stability of the shoulder. The main surgical types are:
- Reverse Shoulder Replacement–The most common shoulder replacement procedure, where the position of the ball and socket in the joint are switched around. A new socket is created at the top of the humerus, where the ball used to be, and an artificial ball is surgically attached to the scapula, where the socket was before. Reverse shoulder surgery helps stabilize the shoulder joint because it bypasses damaged muscles and tendons and utilizes different muscles instead.
- Total Shoulder Replacement – Another common procedure that completely replaces the damaged ball and socket with artificial components to mimic the original structure. The new ball and socket are fixed in place with bone cement.
- Partial Shoulder Replacement Surgery–Where only the ball at the top of the upper arm is replaced, leaving the existing socket intact.
- Resurfacing Shoulder Replacement – Replaces only the worn or damaged surfaces of the joint with artificial components.
- Revision Surgery – A repeat shoulder replacement is required if the artificial implant becomes loose or wears out over time. It is a more complex procedure that involves removing the artificial joint, plus more natural bone.
- Minimally Invasive Joint Replacement–An innovative procedure that offers the same outcomes as traditional shoulder replacement surgery, but is performed using much smaller incisions. This causes minimal disruption and damage to surrounding healthy tissue, allowing for a faster recovery and smaller scars.
After shoulder replacement surgery, the arm is placed in a sling, which will need to be worn for up to four weeks while the shoulder heals. You will receive pain medication and antibiotics to keep you comfortable and prevent infection. Depending on your type of surgery, you may need to stay in hospital for up to five days.
You will be given specific advice to follow when returning home from surgery. Arm movements will be restricted, and you will likely require help to do certain activities for several weeks.
What Can I Expect During Recovery?
Recovery from shoulder replacement surgery can take time and will vary between individuals depending on many factors, such as the condition of the joint, extent of the joint damage, the type of surgery done, and the patient’s age, lifestyle, and overall health.
You will experience less arm function for a month or so after surgery. Your surgeon may recommend lifting nothing heavier than a glass of water for the first six weeks, and not pushing or pulling for the first few weeks. Heavy lifting, contact sports, and certain activities will need to be avoided for at least six months, or until your physical therapist or surgeon say it is safe. You will be given advice about when it is safe to return to work and drive again. Overusing the shoulder can result in complications such as increased pain and injury.
On average, it takes 3-6 months to make a full recovery from shoulder replacement surgery. Your surgeon, physical therapist, and occupational therapist will support you and work with you following surgery to help ensure a successful recovery.
Rehabilitation for a Quicker Recovery
Rehabilitation is key to a successful recovery and will begin soon after surgery to promote healing and prevent stiffness. Physical therapy can help to improve motion, strength, and joint stability. In some instances, therapy may be recommended pre-operatively, as well as after surgery to help speed up the recovery process.
A physical therapist will work with you to strengthen and provide mobility to the shoulder. They will guide you through specific exercises and ways to move your shoulder comfortably. Therapy will progress over time, and movements will be increased gradually as the shoulder heals. You will also be given a home exercise program to follow, which can help speed up recovery and achieve the best outcome.
Shoulder replacement surgery is considered a safe and effective option to relieve pain and increase range of motion. Most patients are able to fully resume their everyday activities and experience an improved quality of life.
Shoulder Replacement Surgery in Gunnison & Crested Butte, CO
If you are considering shoulder replacement surgery, visit gO Orthopedics for the expert care you need. We are the leading joint reconstruction and joint replacement practice in the Western Slope, and our team of board-certified, fellowship-trained surgeons is highly-skilled in the reconstruction of shoulders, knees, hips, ankles, and elbows.
We offer a full range of cutting-edge nonsurgical treatments, minimally invasive rapid recovery joint replacement, complex revision joint reconstruction, and much more to help you return to your active lifestyle as quickly as possible.