Dear Dr. Millett,

I’ve played sports for as long as I can remember and now that I have retired from my professional job, I have taken up golf with a few of my retired buddies. We play a lot. However, I’ve experienced a lot of shoulder pain in the last year and my doctor has confirmed that I have advanced shoulder arthritis. I am 72 and am a candidate for shoulder replacement surgery. Will this help with my pain and mobility?

I appreciate your help,
Stan P.

Hi Stan,

Shoulder replacement surgery, also referred to as total shoulder replacement or shoulder arthroplasty, is a surgery whereby the arthritis is removed and an artificial joint (ball and socket) is placed into the shoulder. Total shoulder replacement is an elective surgery, meaning that though you may have severe pain that you cannot live with, it is still your decision whether or not to receive it.

Total shoulder replacement is highly effective at relieving pain and restoring function. It is a wonderful solution for many adults who have advanced arthritis of the shoulder, with loss of cartilage from both the ball (humeral head) and the socket (glenoid). It is important to know that shoulder replacement is usually recommended in those who have failed non-surgical treatments, such as injections medications, and physical therapy.

Candidates for total shoulder replacement are those who have:

  • Osteoarthritis (degenerative joint disease)
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Post-traumatic arthritis (from a severe accident or fall or old fracture)
  • Rotator cuff tear (a combination of severe arthritis and a massive non-reparable rotator cuff tendon tear)

95% of patients who undergo total shoulder replacement are greatly pleased with their relief of pain and renewed mobility. This prosthesis will provide pain relief and mobility for approximately 15 years and at times, longer. I usually will not recommend a total shoulder replacement until my patients are 60 or older, although in certain settings it can be used effectively in younger patients who don’t have other options (see CAM procedure). In younger patients, we may use other techniques that help with pain including the CAM Procedure.

When a total shoulder replacement is performed we typically start physical therapy immediately and begin a regiment of movement immediately following the surgery in order to allow the body to adjust to the new shoulder, and help one to recover quickly and comfortably. Patients stay one or two nights in the hospital and use a sling for only 2 to 3 weeks following the surgery. Golf, tennis, hiking, skiing, cycling, and other sports are permitted after total shoulder replacement. Most patients are cleared for full, unrestricted activities at 4 months following the surgery.