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 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.

What’s the difference between total shoulder replacement and reverse total shoulder replacement?

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.

What’s the benefit of a rotator cuff sparing total shoulder replacement?

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.

Will I need someone with me at home following discharge from the hospital?

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

What type of therapy will I need and how long?

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.

When can I use my arm?

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.

When can I drive?

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.

How much can I lift after surgery?

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.

How long does the surgery take?

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

How long am I in the hospital?

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

How much pain will I have?

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.

Is there anything I can do to damage my new joint?

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.

How long does the new joint last?

New shoulder joints typically last 10-20 years

Contact Us

If you are considering surgery to help ease your shoulder pain, please contact us at for more information. If surgery is necessary one of our physicians can provide a referral to our affilated orthopaedic surgeons.