Shoulder Replacement Recovery

Shoulder replacement surgery is your first step to being able to do simple things like lift and push again, with less pain. After surgery, it’s your turn to take the lead on your road to recovery. Joint replacement is major surgery, but when you commit to putting in the effort and time to rehabilitation, you’ll recover, get stronger and enjoy the benefits of your new joint for years to come.

Your Recovery Timeline After Shoulder Replacement

Typically, your hospital stay after shoulder replacement is one to two nights. When you do go home, you’ll need someone at home to help you for several weeks.

You’ll begin wearing a sling right after surgery and will need it for the next several weeks. While you’re in the hospital, rehabilitation specialists will show you simple exercises to do for the first 7-10 days. Otherwise, you will need to protect your shoulder joint by wearing the sling at all times and not using your arm. After your follow-up visit, you’ll start outpatient rehabilitation, which can last for 2-3 weeks.

Overall, how quickly you recover varies, depending on which shoulder replacement option is right for you. The rotator cuff-sparing method allows the surgeon to replace the joint without cutting any of the muscles or tendons of the rotator cuff, so recovery is faster. Your health and activity level before surgery will play a role in your recovery too. The St. Elizabeth Orthopaedic team will discuss your customized treatment and recovery plan with you during your pre-surgical appointment.

Outpatient Rehabilitation Locations

St. Elizabeth Healthcare has 13 outpatient rehabilitation centers located conveniently throughout Northern Kentucky and Southeastern Indiana. You’ll work with rehabilitation specialists who’ve helped hundreds of people like you and who are committed to helping you return to an active life.

A man with shoulder pain goes to the doctor, The doctor diagnoses the patient's arm pain and shoulder pain.

Learn More

If surgery is necessary, our physicians can provide a referral to one of our affiliated orthopedic surgeons. For more information on surgical options, please contact us at

Shoulder Replacement – FAQs

Shoulder replacement is major surgery. If it’s an option you’re considering, you probably have lots of questions. The Orthopaedic team at St. Elizabeth Healthcare, which includes affiliated orthopaedic surgeons from OrthoCincy Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine, are here to answer all your questions. We want you to understand what shoulder replacement surgery involves, what you can expect during recovery and how shoulder replacement will impact your life. These are a few questions we frequently get from people considering shoulder replacement surgery.

Total shoulder replacement surgery involves replacing the ball at the head of the upper arm (humerus) with an implant and the socket in the shoulder bone with an implant. If your rotator cuff is damaged, your surgeon may do a reverse total shoulder replacement. It reverses placement of the new prostheses, implanting the ball in the shoulder bone and the socket on the humerus allowing you to lift your arm.

The rotator cuff sparing method involves a faster recovery with less pain. Traditional shoulder replacement uses an incision at the front of the shoulder and requires cutting muscles and tendons of the rotator cuff. The rotator cuff sparing method uses an incision at the back of the shoulder, which eliminates the need to cut muscles and tendons of the rotator cuff.

Yes, after you’re discharged from the hospital, you’ll need someone with you for several weeks.

You’ll need physical therapy after surgery to regain full movement and to strengthen the muscles around the joint. The length of time will vary, depending on the type of surgery you have, your health and activity level before surgery. Typically, you’ll need to commit to six to nine months of rehabilitation and home exercise.

You’ll need to wear a sling at all times for three weeks after surgery, and at night and in public for up to six weeks. You won’t be able to lift anything heavier than a glass of water for the first six weeks. Your doctor and physical therapist will monitor your progress and determine when you can start using your arm for daily activities.

You probably won’t be able to drive for at least 4-6 weeks after surgery. Never drive when you’re taking prescription pain medication. Your surgeon or physical therapist will tell you when you’re cleared to drive.

For the first six weeks, you can’t lift anything heavier than a glass of water. Your surgeon and physical therapist will monitor your progress and determine when your new joint can handle more weight.

The surgery usually takes one to two hours, but can take longer for more complicated cases.

You’ll probably be in the hospital 1-2 nights, but it can vary.

The pain you had from arthritis before surgery will be gone after surgery, but you will have surgical/muscle pain. You’ll have pain for several weeks following surgery, but it will decrease as you heal and get stronger.

You’ll have to take some precautions after surgery, like avoiding quick, sharp movements, falls and stress to your shoulder joint. Your physical therapist will talk with you about how to protect your new joint.

New shoulder joints typically last 10-20 years.

Contact Us

Is your shoulder pain bothering you?

Schedule an appointment with our Sports Medicine physicians for a treatment plan tailored to you. Call (859) 212-5600 to make an appointment.

Surgical Options

If surgery is necessary, our physicians can provide a referral to one of our affiliated orthopaedic surgeons. For more information on surgical options, please contact us at