What To Expect After Shoulder Replacement Surgery

While cases of hip and knee replacement surgery outnumber those of shoulder replacement surgeries performed annually in the U.S., there are still more than 50,000 shoulder replacement surgeries done every year across the country (via WebMD).

Kellie K. Middleton, MD/MPH, is an Atlanta-based orthopaedic surgeon who places great emphasis on providing advanced, comprehensive orthopedic and sports medicine care. As a physician, she has extensive experience in the fields of health, fitness, and wellness. In an interview with Health Digest, Dr. Middleton explains what shoulder replacement surgery entails and what patients can expect after the fact.

"Shoulder replacement surgery is usually done when someone has a severely damaged shoulder joint due to arthritis, osteoarthritis, or a serious injury," Dr. Middleton states. "The surgery aims to replace the damaged part of the joint with an artificial one that works well and provides pain relief." Explaining how this is achieved, Dr. Middleton says, "During a shoulder replacement procedure, an artificial ball-and-socket joint (prosthesis) is implanted to replace the existing damaged joint. The prosthesis is designed to provide a smooth, gliding surface that allows for more normal shoulder movement." As a result, she states that most patients experience reduced pain and an increased range of motion following surgery.

Tips for reducing shoulder pain during recovery

Dr. Middleton goes on to tell Health Digest what patients can expect in the aftermath of shoulder replacement surgery. "After a shoulder replacement surgery, it is important to remember that everyone is different and will experience recovery differently," she says. "People should generally expect some pain for the first few weeks following the procedure." However, she explains that the pain will progressively subside over time. "This should gradually decrease as time passes and you engage in physical therapy and other exercises. Pain medications may also be prescribed to help manage any discomfort," Dr. Middleton states.

Concluding the interview, Dr. Middleton highlights protective measures patients can take during the recovery process. "As with any surgery, taking certain precautions following a shoulder replacement surgery is important," she states. "It is important to follow the instructions of your doctor and physical therapist closely to ensure that you are doing the right exercises and not pushing yourself too hard."

Pointing out measures that patients can implement at home, Dr. Middleton states, "Keep the area clean and dry, use a pillow/cushion when sleeping to prevent pressure on the joint, avoid heavy lifting or strenuous activities, and practice deep breathing and relaxation techniques to reduce stress." She also emphasizes when it's important to reach out to your healthcare provider. "Additionally, if you experience any swelling or pain that lasts longer than expected or is severe, contact your doctor immediately."