screen-shot-2016-09-15-at-10-52-32-amSuffering from severe shoulder pain and stiffness can rob you of enjoying your life, besides make you less productive. To treat the problem, most people first try nonsurgical methods to find relief. Unfortunately, sometimes these treatments are ineffective, so patients consider shoulder replacement surgery. The benefits of this surgery are several. In addition to alleviating shoulder pain, the procedure relieves stiffness and restores shoulder mobility. Here is what you can expect from shoulder replacement surgery, along with how to know whether or not you’re a candidate for it.

What’s Involved in the Procedure

Basically, joint replacement surgery entails a surgeon replacing the joint “ball” or ends of the damaged humerus (upper arm bone). It also typically involves the replacement of the scapula or shoulder bone with artificial surfaces. These surfaces have a plastic and metal lining, and the parts of the shoulder joint are cemented to keep them held securely in place.  

Sometimes, patients only need a partial shoulder replacement, known as a hemi-replacement. This surgery only replaces the ball component and is done for specific severe shoulder fractures involving the humeral head.

What to Expect During the Procedure

In most cases, patients are given a general anesthesia, meaning they are unconscious while undergoing surgery. Some people receive regional or local anesthesia. This means that they won’t feel pain but are awake and feel sleepy during the operation.  

Your type of anesthesia can depend on factors, such as your overall health and what your doctor recommends. It can also depend on your personal preference. You may need to take antibiotics both before and after your surgery for reducing the likelihood of infection.

Post Surgery Care

  • After your surgery, you may have to remain in the hospital for two or three days.
  • Expect to feel some pain. Discomfort can be controlled with pain medications that can be administered by a pump or injection.
  • You can eat solid foods the day after your procedure.
  • You’ll need to keep your arm in a sling for about four to six months.
  • Once you’re home, you’ll continue to take prescription medications, aspirin and anti-inflammatory drugs to manage pain and prevent blood clots
  • Your doctor will prescribe certain exercises designed for keeping your muscles strong. These are exercises that will not hurt your replaced shoulder. Although physical therapy isn’t easy, it’s necessary and will grow progressively easier.
  • Your stitches will need proper care. For example, do not get your incision dirty or wet. Don’t take baths or shower until returning to your follow-up appointment because the incision needs to heal, and it could become infected if it gets wet.
  • Patients who have staples can have them removed after two to three weeks following their surgeries.
  • Change your dressing daily.
  • Don’t be alarmed if you see a small amount of blood on the dressing.
  • Other than weather-linked joint pain, most people don’t have any shoulder pain at all after six months to a year following their procedures.


It’s important to recognize the basic signs indicating surgery may be needed. Ask yourself questions,such as:

  • Do I continue to have pain even though I take prescription pain killers?
  • Do cortisone injections fail to work?
  • Do I walk around all day feeling tired because I can’t rest or sleep due to shoulder pain?

Some people are not good candidates for shoulder replacement surgery, such as patients who have an active infection. Sometimes, patients have symptoms, but they’re not severe enough to require surgery. If your symptoms don’t disable you, then you’re not considered a candidate for this operation. Also, if you have a progressive nervous system disease that has compromised the shoulder joint, you should avoid having a shoulder replacement operation.

You don’t have to continue to suffer from shoulder pain and stiffness. Call the orthopedic specialists at Hampton Roads Orthopedics and Sports Medicine and find out if you’re a candidate for surgery. Please contact us and learn more about our wide range of orthopedic services.