Shoulder Replacements

Elderly man with shoulder replacement

Taking you to new heights

There are three reasons why you might be on this page:

  • You have had a shoulder replacement, and would like to know more about rehab
  • You will be having a shoulder replacement, and want to know what to expect
  • You are simply curious about shoulder replacements!

This article will provide you with some basic information on shoulder replacement surgeries, but we’ll focus more on what happens after your surgery and what you can expect from physiotherapy treatment.

Shoulder replacements are done for a variety of reasons, including having a shoulder fracture that may not heal well on its own, recurrent shoulder dislocations and shoulder arthritis. If you have shoulder arthritis and are interested in how we can help before surgery, check out our article on osteoarthritis!

What happens during a shoulder replacement surgery? 

Any joint replacement surgery is called an arthroplasty. The shoulder joint is a ball-and-socket joint, where the top of the upper arm bone (humerus) forms the “ball” and part of your shoulder blade (scapula) forms the socket. In an arthroplasty, one or both surfaces of bones of the problematic joint are removed and replaced with a prosthesis. Prostheses can be made out of metal, plastic or ceramic. There are three main types of shoulder arthroplasties:

Anatomic total shoulder arthroplasty

In this type of shoulder replacement, both the “ball” and “socket” ends of the connecting bones are replaced. The term anatomic means that the positions of the “ball” and “socket” are preserved, in contrast to a reverse total shoulder arthroplasty.

Reverse total shoulder arthroplasty

Like the anatomic total shoulder replacement, the surfaces of both the bones forming the joint are replaced. However, the positions of the “ball” and “socket” are swapped, so that the socket now sits on the top of the humerus, and the ball sits on the shoulder blade. This is by far the most popular type of shoulder replacement procedure, accounting for about 74% of all shoulder replacements in 2017 (National Joint Replacement Registry Annual Report, 2018).

Partial shoulder arthroplasty

In this procedure, only the “ball” part of the joint (i.e., the humerus) is replaced. The socket is not changed or altered in any way.

Prior to the surgery, your surgeon will discuss which procedure and prosthesis material will work best for you.

What happens after surgery?

Regardless of which procedure is performed, physiotherapy is recommended to help your shoulder heal from the operation. The shoulder joint is essential for many daily tasks such as reaching overhead, gripping, and moving objects. Your shoulder is critical for many sports and household activities, so it is really important that you commence rehabilitation as soon as possible.

We’ll assess your shoulder after the surgery to determine your strength, range, and overall function. From there, we tailor an exercise treatment program that takes into account your goals so we can get you back to doing the things you love.

Immediately after your operation, you will be instructed to wear a sling to support the shoulder for around six weeks. This is to reduce strain on the shoulder joint as it heals.

In the early stages, physiotherapy will focus on managing pain and maintaining the function of surrounding joints, including the elbow, wrist and neck. Due to the position of the sling and duration of wear, it is common for patients to develop stiffness in these joints.

After six weeks, you should be cleared by your surgeon to begin progressive exercise to improve range and strength. From there, the journey can take anywhere between three to six months to return to your desired level of function.

If you are scheduled to have a shoulder replacement, or have already had one, give us a call on 1300 738 609 to see one of our friendly physiotherapists. Let us help you find your Solution.

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