When Should You Consider a Shoulder Replacement?

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When Should You Consider a Shoulder Replacement?

If you have shoulder pain that impacts your life, you may have osteoarthritis. When this is the case, a shoulder replacement may be necessary to get rid of your pain. Keep reading to learn more about shoulder replacement surgery and when it can help.

Shoulder pain is not uncommon — but when it interferes with your daily activities, that’s a problem. There are a number of issues that can lead to shoulder pain, including osteoarthritis. If this is the culprit behind your pain, you may end up with a shoulder replacement down the road.

At Kansas City Orthopedic Alliance, located in Kansas City, Missouri, our team are experts in many different shoulder conditions. Our team is led by Dr. Scott Ellsworth, an orthopedic specialist with years of hands-on experience. If you’re dealing with shoulder pain, Dr. Ellsworth helps you decide if a shoulder replacement is right for you.

Causes of shoulder pain

Shoulder pain often comes and goes. When it sticks around, however, it may be due to either an injury or a degenerative condition. Either of these can happen at any age, but degeneration due to osteoarthritis often presents itself as you get older. Other causes of shoulder pain include:

  • Torn rotator cuff
  • Dislocated shoulder
  • Bursitis
  • Tendinitis
  • Frozen shoulder
  • Arthritis 

A broken bone in or near your shoulder is yet another reason you could be experiencing shoulder pain. No matter what’s causing your pain, it’s important that you don’t let it fester for too long without treatment.

When is it time for a shoulder replacement?

If the pain is affecting your quality of life, a shoulder replacement could be a good option. However, it’s not the first recommendation because it’s an invasive surgery that requires rehabilitation afterwards.

Conservative measures are often the first line of treatment when it comes to shoulder pain. This can include rest, medications, and physical therapy. If those don’t give you the relief you’re looking for, steroid injections in your joint can help. 

If you’ve exhausted all conservative treatment options but still have debilitating pain, a shoulder replacement is the next course of action. This type of procedure is a good choice if your pain is due to osteoarthritis or rotator cuff problems.

You may need a shoulder replacement in other cases as well — for example, when you’ve severely broken the upper portion of your humerus. Osteonecrosis, or death of the bone, is another condition that sometimes requires shoulder replacement surgery.

Understanding the procedure

A shoulder replacement involves removing the damaged part of your shoulder joint and replacing it with artificial materials. The procedure is performed under general anesthesia and often requires an overnight stay in the hospital.

The area of your shoulder that’s replaced depends on the amount of damage to the joint. Typically, the “ball” portion of the joint is removed and replaced with a ball and stem made of metal. The stem is inserted into the humerus. 

If your arthritis is severe, the “socket” portion of your joint may also need to be replaced. It is usually replaced with a hard plastic prosthetic that’s attached with strong surgical cement. 

The procedure may take several hours, as Dr. Ellsworth needs to make sure to remove all of the damaged tissue within the joint to ensure the prosthetics fit appropriately. The prosthetics come in all different sizes, which are determined when Dr. Ellsworth gets into your joint and measures the size of the socket.

Once the surgery is complete, your incision is closed and a dressing is placed over the area. You are taken to the recovery area and either discharged or shown to your hospital room, depending on your overall health and any complications from the procedure.

What to expect from recovery

After your procedure, you should expect to attend physical therapy several times a week for a few months. This helps you to regain mobility and flexibility in your newly structured joint. 

You may also see an occupational therapist, who assists you with using your new shoulder joint to do everyday tasks. Both physical therapy and occupational therapy are vital to your successful recovery.

Once you’re recovered, you should have much less pain than you did before the replacement. Full recovery from shoulder replacement surgery can take anywhere from six months to a year after surgery. 

During the first six months, Dr. Ellsworth sees you for several follow-up appointments. He ensures that your recovery is going well and you don’t have any issues or complications from the procedure. After six months, you’ll have fewer follow-ups, unless problems arise.

If you’re tired of dealing with shoulder pain and need expert care, don’t hesitate to call our office in Kansas City, Missouri or schedule a consultation online.