Medically Reviewed by David E. Lukowski, MD
If you look at the statistics, shoulder problems are not as great a problem as knee and hip joint issues. Annually, total shoulder joint replacements number only about 1/20th as many as total knee joint replacements.
“Yet, if you are one of those people suffering chronic shoulder pain, limited range of motion and mobility, the statistics are meaningless and you just want help,” says McLeod Seacoast Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. David Lukowski. “For some reason, people tend to put off shoulder surgery longer than people with a hip or knee problem. Yet, a recent study shows that there are significantly fewer complications and shorter hospital stays with shoulder surgery than with hip or knee replacements.”
PROBLEMS & CAUSES
A number of problems can lead to surgery: Rotator cuff tears. Loose or torn cartilage. Fractures. Shoulder dislocations and separations. Or – one of the most common problems – osteoarthritis due to wear and tear over the years.
HOW IT WORKS
The shoulder is similar to the hip. Its joint involves a ball-and-cup construction. The ball portion is on the upper arm (humerus) and the cup is on the shoulder blade (scapula).
The entire joint can be replaced, or in some cases, only the ball portion on the shoulder is replaced. The “reverse total shoulder replacement” is used successfully in some places. “Reverse” means that the plastic cup portion is installed in the arm and the metal ball portion in the shoulder. This system is used when the patient’s arm weakness, arthritis or rotator cuff tearing is severe.
Procedures on the shoulder can be performed 1) using several small incisions (arthroscopy) and a TV camera for viewing, 2) open surgery, where larger incisions are made so that the surgeon can directly view and have access to the problem and muscle is cut and displaced, or 3) a combination (mini-open surgery) using arthroscopy, but with slightly larger incisions without the need to cut muscles.
The smaller the incisions and the less muscle tissue is disturbed, the patient will have less pain and a faster recovery.
After should joint replacement, many people can return to sports – such as swimming, golfing and bowling – or even garden work.
But first, you can expect a short stay in the hospital, wearing your shoulder in a sling for about 6 weeks, and doing special stretching exercises for a couple months.
When you’re recovering, there are some things to avoid:
If you have shoulder pain and are noticing limited mobility or range of motion, talk to an orthopedic surgeon. There are solutions that can help you.
Find an Orthopedic Specialist near you.
Sources: McLeod Health, National Institutes of Health, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery, Healthgrades, Arthroscopy Association of North America, Arthritis Foundation