The upper arm bone is shaped like a ball to fit neatly into a socket created by the shoulder blade; this is the glenohumeral joint. These bones are covered by a hard cartilage which cushions the bones when you move your arm. If the hard cartilage wears away, the bones can rub against each other, causing pain and stiffness. This is osteoarthritis.
If arthritis is limiting your everyday activities and you haven’t been able to manage your pain with medications, cortisone injections, or physical therapy, a shoulder replacement might be an option.
Total Shoulder Replacement
In a shoulder replacement (arthroplasty) the entire joint is replaced with metal and plastic. This procedure can be done inpatient or outpatient depending upon your health, medical history, and insurance – meaning you may not have to spend a night in the hospital.
Total shoulder-replacement surgery involves separating the deltoid and pectoralis muscles in the front of your shoulder to access the shoulder in a nerve-free location. The rotator cuff is released to access the shoulder joint.
Your surgeon replaces the ball of your upper arm bone with a surgical-metal ball and replaces the damaged socket cartilage with a surgical plastic insert. This traditional approach relies on your rotator cuff to power your shoulder the same way that a healthy shoulder functions.
If you have a large, irreparable rotator-cuff tear, you may be able to replace the ball of the upper arm bone with an oversized ball or have a reverse total shoulder replacement, where the ball of the upper arm bone is replaced with a rectangular plastic insert and the socket with a metal ball. After this surgery your shoulder will use the deltoid muscles instead of the rotator cuff to power and position the arm. Both surgeries provide substantial pain reduction.
Caring for yourself after a shoulder replacement can be easier if you have extra help. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. Also, talking with our joint coordinator can help alleviate some of your post-surgery concerns.
You can expect to undergo physical therapy after surgery, sometimes even the next day. Although it can take up to a year, the majority of patients who have total shoulder replacement surgery feel much better and are able to move their shoulders with greater ease and less pain, making everyday tasks enjoyable again.