A Patient's Guide to Shoulder Replacement Surgery

Posted on 
May 8, 2024

Shoulder replacement surgery is a medical intervention designed for individuals experiencing debilitating shoulder pain and limited mobility. These problems can be the result of severe arthritis, extensive injury, or other chronic conditions. In this article, we’ll explain the various types of shoulder replacement procedures, the duration of the surgery itself, what patients can expect after the surgery and the typical duration of the recovery period.

What is Shoulder Replacement Surgery?

The shoulder joint consists of a ball and socket, and the components of the joint can become worn out or damaged. Shoulder replacement surgery is a medical procedure that involves removing damaged portions of the shoulder joint and replacing them with artificial components, known as prosthesis. During the surgery, the surgeon replaces the damaged end of the humerus (the ball) with a metal ball and the glenoid cavity (the socket) with a plastic surface to allow the new joint to mimic the movement of a healthy shoulder. This operation aims to provide patients with a smoother, more pain-free range of motion, enabling them to return to their daily activities with an improved quality of life. Shoulder replacement surgery has become a highly effective solution for those whose conditions have not improved with conservative treatment methods.

What Are the Conditions That Can Damage the Joint?

  • Osteoarthritis, often referred to as wear and tear arthritis, leads to the deterioration of the protective cartilage on the bone ends.
  • Injuries to the rotator cuff can sometimes cause cartilage and bone damage in the joint.
  • Shoulder fractures, particularly at the upper end of the humerus, might require replacement if the injury is severe or attempts at surgical repair have been unsuccessful.
  • Inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis can lead to cartilage damage and sometimes affect the bone.
  • Osteonecrosis occurs when shoulder ailments impede blood flow to the humerus, leading to potential bone collapse due to the lack of nutrients and oxygen.

How Long Does Shoulder Replacement Surgery Take?

Shoulder replacement surgery typically requires about 1 to 3 hours to complete. This can vary depending on the complexity of the individual case and the specific type of shoulder replacement being performed. For instance, a total shoulder replacement might have a different duration compared to a partial replacement or reverse total shoulder replacement, which is often used for patients with significant rotator cuff damage. Other factors such as the surgeon’s expertise, the extent of the damage and any additional procedures being performed concurrently can influence the duration.

What to Expect After Shoulder Replacement Surgery

After undergoing shoulder replacement surgery, patients can expect a recovery period that involves managing pain, engaging in physical therapy and gradually regaining shoulder function. Initially, pain and discomfort are common, but these symptoms are managed with medications prescribed by the healthcare team. Swelling and bruising around the surgical sites are also typical but will diminish over time.

Physical therapy plays an important role in the recovery process, starting with gentle exercises soon after surgery to prevent stiffness and encourage circulation. These exercises gradually increase in intensity under the guidance of a physical or occupational therapist, focusing on restoring range of motion, strength and flexibility to the shoulder.

Patients are advised to follow specific post-surgery care instructions, including how to care for the incision, recognizing the signs of infections, and managing pain. It’s also important to adhere to restrictions on certain activities to avoid placing undue stress on the healing shoulder.

How Long Does It Take to Recover from Shoulder Replacement Surgery?

Recovery from shoulder replacement surgery is a gradual process that varies with the individual, but generally follows a predictable timeline. The initial recovery phase, focusing on managing pain and reducing inflammation, lasts for a few weeks. During this period, patients are encouraged to engage in light activities and gentle exercises to maintain mobility without overstraining the new joint.

By 6 weeks, most patients transition to more structured physical therapy, which plays a vital role in regaining strength and improving the range of motion. This phase is critical for rebuilding the muscles around the new joint and adapting to the prosthetic components.

The full recovery period can extend up to 6 months or longer, depending on individual factors like the patient’s overall health, the complexity of the surgery, and their commitment to rehabilitation. It’s during this time that patients gradually return to their regular daily activities with an improved quality of life.

It’s important to note that while physical recovery is significant, emotional and mental recovery is also important. Patience and adherence to post-operative care and physical therapy are key to achieving the best outcomes from shoulder replacement surgery.


Shoulder replacement surgery offers relief to those struggling with severe shoulder pain and limited mobility. Recovery, while gradual, paves the way for a significant enhancement in quality of life, allowing individuals to return to their daily routines with renewed vigor and less discomfort. It’s a journey of physical and emotional healing that requires a strong commitment on the part of the patient to post-operative care and rehabilitation.

Who to Contact for Shoulder Replacement Surgery

For additional information about shoulder replacement surgery, you can trust the experts at Forté Sports Medicine and Orthopedics. Our locations in Carmel, Noblesville, Tipton and Greenwood are dedicated to providing same-day access, extended service hours, and a comprehensive range of treatments. Our practice originated from the need for expert sports medicine in Indianapolis almost 40 years ago, and it's since expanded into a holistic orthopedic center for patients of all ages, from competitive athletes to active grandparents. Our team of 20 physicians and support staff delivers specialized care across Central Indiana and to key local sports teams. We prioritize prompt, specialized care for acute injuries, directing those with severe conditions to emergency services. For more information about our practice or to schedule an appointment, contact us via our website or give us a call at 317-817-1200.

related articles

Franciscan Orthopedic Surgery Center In Carmel Awarded ACHC Certification

CARMEL, Indiana - Franciscan Orthopedic Surgery Center, which is a joint venture with Franciscan Health Orthopedic Hospital Carmel and Forté Sports Medicine and Orthopedics, was recently awarded full certification for […]

Veteran Shares Journey with Shoulder Replacement Surgery

Within 36 hours of shoulder replacement surgery, U.S. Army veteran Biane Kidwell could tell the procedure had been successful. “There was a distinct difference between the shoulder pain I had […]

Medical Student Credits Indianapolis Colts, Forté Physicians for “Incredible” Clinical Experience

Adam Munoz is learning what it takes to be a sports medicine physician for professional athletes. Throughout August, the medical student from Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta joined Forté […]
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram