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Shoulder Arthritis

How common is shoulder pain from arthritis?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, arthritis pain affects nearly 66 million Americans each year. After back pain, shoulder pain is the most common site of muscle and joint pain.

What is arthritis?
Arthritis is a general term for deterioration of the joint and there are several types of arthritis. The most common type of arthritis is the “wear and tear” osteoarthritis, which becomes more common with age. Other types include:

  • “inflammatory” arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis which basically is the result of the body’s immune system causing deterioration of the joint and surrounding tissues.
  • “post-traumatic”arthritis is deterioration of the joint after an injury or trauma such as a fracture or dislocation of the shoulder.

What conservative options are available to help my pain?
There are many options available for treatment prior to considering surgery. As not all treatments are appropriate for every patient it is important to discuss your situation with your physician. In general available options to consider before exploring surgery include activity modification, physical therapy for stretching, modalities such as heat and massage, medications, and injections.

Can the shoulder be replaced like hip and knee replacement? 

Yes, many patients aren’t aware of shoulder replacements because compared with around 750,000 hip and knee replacements only about 23,000 shoulder replacements were performed in the United States in 2002. However, shoulder replacement rates are also increasing faster than hip and knee replacement rates in the United States, with nearly 50,000 shoulder replacements performed in 2006. The new Reverse Total Shoulder has also helped make shoulder replacement possible for many patients.

Are there different kinds of shoulder replacements?

Yes, types of shoulder replacements include:

  • total shoulder replacement
  • reverse total shoulder replacement
  • partial replacement or hemiarthroplasty
  • revision replacement for failed surgery

Who performs shoulder replacements?
Orthopedic surgeons perform shoulder replacements. As shoulder surgery is highly specialized and fewer shoulder replacements than hip and knee replacements are performed less than 3% of orthopedic surgeons in the United States have advanced experience and training in performing shoulder replacement surgery.

Is arthritis the only reason for shoulder replacement?
No. Shoulder replacement is also performed for other indications including but not limited to:

How long does a shoulder replacement last?
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Like hip and knee replacements, a shoulder replacement can wear out. With modern materials and techniques, a shoulder replacement may provide 15-20 years or more of functional life and pain relief.

How successful is shoulder replacement surgery?
Like hip and knee replacement surgery, shoulder replacement surgery is one of truly modern marvels of orthopedic surgery, offering patients meaningful pain relief and improved functional ability. Most patients see a 100% improvement in their ability to perform their daily tasks of living.

What are the risks?
Shoulder replacement carries risks similar to hip and knee replacement. Although rare these include bleeding, infection, anesthesia associated risks, blood clots, and nerve injury.

How long will I be in the hospital?
Unlike hip and knee replacement, most of the shoulder replacement surgeries we perform require only a one-night stay in the hospital.

What activities can I do with a shoulder replacement? After surgery your ultimate level of strength and function can take 3-6 months or longer to reach. Review our Total Shoulder Rehabilitation Program and Reverse Total Shoulder Rehabilitation Program to help speed your recovery.We tend to discourage heavy lifting, contact sports, and high impact activities. Golf and bowling are typical activities that patients may be able to resume after shoulder replacement.

What is new in shoulder replacement surgery? 

The most significant advance has been the approval of the Reverse Total Shoulder by the FDA for use in the United States in 2004. It has been successfully utilized in Europe since the late 1980s.

How do I know if shoulder replacement is right for me? Also, with so many options which one is best?
As there are many options available, including the new Reverse Total Shoulder, it is important to review your unique circumstances with an experienced shoulder specialist to determine the best treatment options for you.

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For more information on shoulder arthritis visit the AAOS Patient Education Site.