Severe shoulder pain can not only limit a person from doing physical activities they enjoy, it can make doing everyday things, such as getting dressed in the morning, nearly impossible. One way of treating severe shoulder pain that doesn’t respond to physical therapy or medication is through total shoulder arthroplasty, also known as total shoulder replacement surgery.
The surgery is used to relieve, and in many cases eliminate, pain in the patient by replacing the damaged sections of bone in the shoulder with artificial parts, typically made of metal, plastic, or some combination of both. While shoulder replacement surgery is less common than knee or hip replacement surgery, around 53,000 people undergo the surgery each year in the United States, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.
What Total Shoulder Replacement Surgery Looks Like
The surgery typically takes one to two hours and centers around the shoulder’s ball-and-socket joint or humeral head, at the top of the humerus bone. During the surgery the humeral head is replaced with a metal ball and the socket replaced with a plastic component to help relieve pain.
Who Is Total Replacement Surgery Right For?
Shoulder pain can occur because of any number of reasons including:
- rotator cuff disease
Surgery is never the first option of treatment, but when physical therapy and medication don’t improve a patient’s pain, surgery can often help.
Typically, patients who undergo this surgery experience progressive stiffness and pain that doesn’t go away with other treatments. This pain can at times be so debilitating that it prevents the person from something as simple as putting on a seatbelt or even sleeping. These sorts of symptoms indicate that the cartilage between the ball and socket in the shoulder has worn down, causing the joints to rub against each other.
A doctor can better determine if a patient may be a candidate for the surgery with X-rays. Sometimes a CT scan may also be needed to help evaluate the bone integrity of the patient.
Possible Complications And Recovery
The good thing is that complications from total shoulder replacement surgery are rare and many patients find their surgery to be successful in relieving them of shoulder pain. In fact, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, 96% of patients (under age 55) return to playing at least one sport within 6.7 months of the surgery.
No surgery is without risk and potential complications include:
- Instability with the ball popping out
- Nerve damage
- Blood clots
- Rotator Cuff failure
Recovery from shoulder surgery can be lengthy, and patients are instructed to rest and not do any strenuous activity or heavy lifting for at least six weeks. Within three months, though, most patients begin to experience better range of motion and most report minimal pain after six months.
The exact level of pain relief from total replacement surgery can be tricky to predict and depend on several factors. To learn more, speak to an OASIS Hospital physician.