Don’t Miss This Simple Breakdown of Recovery Time for Total Shoulder Replacement Surgery

Joseph A. Abboud, MD February 20th, 2015

Here at Rothman Orthopaedic Institute, our shoulder and elbow specialists see patients for a wide variety of reasons and we offer non-surgical as well as operative approaches to care. Our ultimate goal, of course, is to reduce pain, increase mobility and restore patients to a healthy, active lifestyle.

Since 1970, we’ve been providing a superior level of care, backed by the latest research and innovation in the orthopedic field. While we’re considered leaders in orthopedics in general, our surgeons are specifically known for their contributions in the world of shoulder replacement techniques and technologies. 
Total Shoulder Replacement Surgery
Among our most often performed surgeries is total shoulder replacement. While not as common as hip and knee replacements, shoulder replacement surgeries are equally as life altering in their ability to restore pain-free movement for patients.
If you have injured your shoulder or are experiencing pain due to degenerative arthritis (the most common reason for having this surgery), you may be considering the option of shoulder replacement. If you’re like the thousands of other patients that see Rothman Orthopaedic Institute physicians each year for shoulder problems, you probably have several initial questions:
  1. What are my non-operative treatment options?
  2. How will I know if shoulder replacement is the right choice for me?
  3. What actually happens during a total shoulder replacement surgery?
  4. What does the recovery time for total shoulder replacement surgery look like?
The best way to get all of your questions answered and get on the road back to a healthy, active lifestyle is to simply call 1-800-321-9999 and schedule an appointment with a specialist at Rothman Orthopaedic Institute. Your doctor will conduct a physical exam, review x-rays and MRI results and discuss options with you.
Recovery Time for Total Shoulder Replacement Surgery
If you and your physician decide that joint replacement is the best treatment option for you, then it will be important for you to be well prepared for your surgery date and the months to follow. While the responsibility of cleaning out the damaged joint and fitting the prosthetic pieces will belong to your surgeon, the commitment to proper recovery will be yours.
No one can force you to rest your arm, observe follow up care instructions, perform strengthening exercises or go to physical therapy. But these important aspects of recovery will prove to be very important to the overall outcome of your procedure. For that reason, we’d like to use this article to outline the general recovery time for total shoulder replacement surgery.
Of course, each patient’s post-surgery experience will be unique, but if you’re looking for a basic timeline to reference, use the points below:
Immediately Following Surgery:
  • You’ll be given antibiotics to prevent infection.
  • As soon as the day following surgery, you’ll be able to eat solid food.
  • Your surgeon will determine when you are ready to go home, but it will most likely be a day or two after surgery.
First Days at Home:
  • Don’t underestimate the importance of pain management.
  • Your surgeon and/or a physical therapist will teach you gently exercises to begin right away. You should commit to doing these regularly as they will contribute greatly to your ability to regain strength and range of motion.
  • Expect to have trouble reaching higher shelves and even completing daily tasks such as getting dressed, doing laundry and getting showered. Arrange to have help around the house for at least the first week.
Weeks Two Through Four, Post Surgery:
  • Your arm will remain in a sling for protection and support.
  • You will not be allowed to drive for the first few weeks.
  • If you have staples, they will be removed two to three weeks post surgery.
  • You should avoid getting the wound area wet until it has fully sealed and dried.
  • Expect to regain independence as you build strength and begin to be able to do household tasks such as cooking, laundry, etc.
  • During this time, avoid using your recovering arm to lifting anything heavier than a few pounds.
Up to Six Weeks Post Surgery:
  • It is not uncommon for patients to experience pain with activity and even while resting.
  • You should continue performing recommended exercises two to three times daily.
  • Avoid moving your arm into extreme positions (such as behind your body).
Three Months Post Surgery:
  • You should find that your pain is very minimal and that your range of motion is improving 
  • Plan to be able to resume all normal, daily activities and even return to a moderate workout routine. Contact sports should still be avoided.
Six Months to One Year Post Surgery:
  • Most patients report being pain-free at this point, although weather-related aching can still occur.
  • If you completed all physical therapy as recommend, your muscle strength and range of motion should be fully restored to pre-surgery levels.
For more information, please visit us here or contact us at 1-800-321-9999.

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