Shoulder pain can be something that people tend to live with, as they may find it is not as debilitating compared to the lower limbs.

However, if you have severe arthritis or have damaged your shoulder joint from a fall or sporting injury, the cartilage between the ball and socket will have worn down, causing swelling around the joint. Mild pain and stiffness may be treated with painkillers, but when severe pain becomes too difficult to manage, you may need a shoulder replacement.

We’ve answered some of our most frequently asked questions around shoulder replacements and shoulder replacement surgery.

1) Why might I need a shoulder replacement?

Arthritis tends to be the most common cause affecting mobility or causing pain and deformity to the alignment of your shoulder joint, although other reasons can include a fracture, which are mostly caused by a fall or injury, but be a result of some long-term conditions.

If pain management, physiotherapy or steroid injection has not been successful in treating shoulder pain and stiffness, your consultant may recommend a shoulder replacement procedure to replace all or part of the joint.

2) How long does a shoulder replacement take?

The procedure will vary based on whether it is a total joint replacement or resurfacing, but usually takes between one and two hours.

Your surgeon will make an incision on the front of your shoulder to remove the damaged ball and insert an artificial ball made of metal. Sometimes, they may also need to replace the socket, which is usually made of plastic. The artificial replacement is fixed onto the bone using a special coating on the arm side of the joint.

3) How effective is shoulder replacement surgery?

Previously, shoulder replacements hadn’t enjoyed as much success as hip or knee replacements, due to the different anatomy of the joints. However, thanks to modern advances in design and materials of artificial shoulder joints, shoulder replacements generally offer much greater stability. Most patients will experience a good reduction in shoulder pain following a shoulder replacement, allowing them to return to many normal activities with comfortable movement.

4) How long will a shoulder replacement last?

The lifespan of your shoulder replacement will vary for everyone and depend on activity levels, overall health and other lifestyle factors. Your shoulder replacement should last for at least 10 years, but generally can be expected to last much longer.

5) What are the risks and complications of shoulder replacement surgery?

There can be risks attached to shoulder replacement surgery, including those associated with using anaesthesia such as sickness or confusion.

Some other complications can arise following surgery, such as ongoing or new types of pain, stiffness, loosening around the shoulder joint or shoulder dislocation. Some of these specific complications can happen in the first few weeks following treatment and is why extreme movement is not advised.

6) Should I do anything to prepare for shoulder surgery?

Before you come in for surgery, we recommend considering several aspects of your lifestyle to ensure you are fit and healthy. This is because the risk of complications during surgery can increase for those who are overweight or less healthy as a result of smoking or drinking. Additionally, maintaining a well-balanced diet can help you to boost recovery, so try to consume foods with plenty of iron to promote healing.

7) How long does it take to recover from a shoulder replacement?

Recovery will vary on an individual basis, although your surgeon will be able to advise you on your recovery time and when you can expect to see improvements with your mobility and strength. It may be up to six months before you notice a significant improvement.

For a shoulder replacement, it may take up to three months before you can return to work, depending on the nature of your work. However, heavy manual activities aren’t recommended at any time following a shoulder replacement.

Following the procedure, it is important that you move around regularly to stimulate your mobility and reduce the stiffness you will be experiencing in your shoulder, but ensure you avoid any extreme movement, heavy lifting or twisting movements.

Our physical therapy team will advise you on exercises that you can do at home to help improve mobility and gentle use of the new shoulder to improve your mobility.

Our shoulder surgery video and shoulder replacement leaflet will provide you with an overview on what to expect from surgical procedures, so you know how to prepare beforehand.

If you have any questions about our services and would like to speak to a member of our team, please do not hesitate to call us on 01892 620939 or get in touch here.

Page last reviewed on 12/09/2019

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