The shoulder joint is a complex joint that is capable of more than any other joint in the body. It is made up of three bones, including the humerus, or upper arm bone; scapula, or shoulder blade; and clavicle, or collarbone. It is known as a ball-and-socket joint, like the hip, and is made up of the humeral head (ball), the glenoid cavity of the scapula (socket), and the rotator cuff (cartilage, ligaments, and tendons surrounding and securing the joint). 

When a joint's shock-absorbing tissue, called cartilage, is worn away, the lack of padding leads to inflammation within and around both the ball and socket of the shoulder. Referred to as osteoarthritis, this can cause pain, loss of motion, and difficulty carrying out daily activities. When it is severe enough, shoulder arthroplasty, or total shoulder replacement surgery, can be a very effective option to improve pain and motion in the arm.

How do I know if I need shoulder replacement surgery?

The most common symptom of shoulder arthritis is pain that is aggravated by activity and progressively worsens. The motion in the shoulder gradually deteriorates, and it will become difficult to lift the arm above the head or to reach out away from the body. 

You may require surgical treatment such as a shoulder replacement if you have bone or soft-tissue loss in the shoulder joint, or if the joint is becoming unstable due to arthritis or a severe shoulder injury. 

You should consult with an orthopedic surgeon to discuss shoulder replacement if you have been experiencing any of the following:

  • Conservative treatment methods, such as exercise, pain medicine, or physical therapy, have proven to be unsuccessful
  • Grinding, clicking, or a bone-on-bone sensation
  • Joint pain and upper arm discomfort that prevents you from participating in recreational activities
  • Pain in and around the shoulder that keeps you awake at night
  • Severe shoulder joint pain that limits your ability to conduct necessary and daily functions, such as combing your hair

Only an orthopedic surgery practice can evaluate you for a direct anterior total hip replacement, partial or total knee replacement, or shoulder replacement surgery. 

Shoulder replacement at Tahoe Forest Orthopedics & Sports Medicine

A total shoulder replacement is a highly technical surgical procedure and is performed while you are under general anesthesia. During a total shoulder replacement, your surgeon will replace the damaged or diseased parts of your shoulder joint with artificial components, called prostheses. 

Through an incision in the front of the shoulder, your surgeon will remove the damaged bone in the humeral head (top of the upper arm bone, or humerus) and glenoid cavity (socket in the shoulder bone, or scapula). Once the area is prepared, your surgeon will place and secure the humeral prosthesis and glenoid prosthesis to create the new joint before closing the incision.

Conventional shoulder replacement surgery replaces the damaged ball and socket in the shoulder while maintaining the rotator cuff to retain the maximum range of motion.  

What to expect at your consultation

Prior to developing a treatment plan or performing a shoulder replacement, your surgeon will determine the source of your chronic pain, whether it is from a rotator cuff issue or a degenerative joint condition, like rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis. Your surgeon will order an X-ray and may also need you to schedule a CT or MRI scan. These scans will help your surgeon diagnose your condition and determine where the damage is located in and on the joint as well as the extent of the damage.

Your shoulder replacement surgeon may want you to undergo nonsurgical treatment methods before recommending a total shoulder replacement, such as joint injections, physical therapy, over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, or prescribed pain medications. You may also need to try activity modification to improve your symptoms and avoid further damage. 

If your surgeon determines that the source of your pain is a form of severe arthritis, he or she will likely recommend total shoulder arthroplasty, or shoulder replacement surgery, as a means of effectively reducing your pain and improving your range of motion. 

What to expect during and after recovery

Following total shoulder replacement surgery, you will stay in the hospital for a few days. The day after surgery, you will be up and out of bed. After surgery, you will feel some pain, but you will be given pain medication to make you comfortable. You will begin physical therapy with a certified physical therapist shortly after your surgery. You will wear a sling for the first two to four weeks to protect your shoulder.

You will be given specific exercises to do by your surgeon and physical therapist to restore movement for your daily activities. Exercising is the most important part of your recovery, especially in the first two weeks. You should be able to resume your normal daily activities three to six weeks after your total shoulder replacement surgery. Some discomfort with activity and at night is common during the first couple of weeks, but pain relief after shoulder replacement can be much faster than with other procedures, as the pain from a badly damaged joint is gone. While there are possible complications from any surgical procedure, total shoulder replacement can substantially improve patients’ pain, daily function, and quality of life.

Choosing a highly skilled surgeon for your joint replacement surgery is one of the best things you can do to reduce your risks and optimize your results. He or she will be well versed in the procedure and will help develop a treatment plan suited to your individual needs.

Exceptional care begins at Tahoe Forest Orthopedics & Sports Medicine

At Tahoe Forest Orthopedics & Sports Medicine, our team of dedicated orthopedic experts is here for you. Our specialty-trained and knowledgeable shoulder replacement surgeons are backed by the latest state-of-the-art technology and have extensive experience to bring you the very best in orthopedic care. Our shoulder replacement doctors have the surgical and nonsurgical expertise you need to reach your goals.

If you are experiencing shoulder pain due to a chronic condition, like arthritis, and are considering joint replacement or other options, call (530) 587-7461 to schedule an appointment with one of our expert shoulder replacement surgeons or make an appointment request . We offer three convenient locations in Truckee, California, and Incline Village, Nevada: Tahoe Forest Orthopedics & Sports MedicineTahoe Forest Sports Medicine & Therapy Services, and the Incline Village Community Hospital.