An older woman massages her shoulder with a look of discomfort on her face.

Shoulder replacement surgery

Shoulder replacement surgery and rehabilitation at TRIA

Whether you’re painting the walls of a bedroom or throwing the winning pitch at a baseball game, you rely on your shoulders. Pain and stiffness can make it difficult to do the things you love, or even get through your regular routines. When this happens, a shoulder replacement might be the treatment you need to move comfortably and confidently again.

Our team of orthopedic surgeons, physical therapists and shoulder experts treat even the most complex shoulder conditions. With some of the leading surgeons in the Midwest and the latest in surgical techniques, we provide the world class care you deserve.

We’ll work with you to create a personalized treatment plan and be by your side from your first appointment through your recovery. Whatever your goals are for improving your shoulder function, we’ll help you get there.

"I'm deeply grateful for the superb medical care that was provided to me, resulting in a 100% functional and pain-free right shoulder post-surgery. I recommend [my doctor] and TRIA Orthopedics to family, friends and colleagues at every opportunity!"

Why are shoulder replacements needed?

The shoulder is a large ball and socket joint made up of bones, tendons, muscles and ligaments that hold the shoulder in place. Smooth cartilage protects the shoulder bones, allowing them to glide easily.

Conditions like osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and injuries can cause the cartilage to wear out. As the cartilage wears out, it can cause shoulder pain or stiffness.

Shoulder replacement surgery removes the damaged cartilage and replaces it with artificial parts that enable your shoulder to move normally, reducing any pain and discomfort. We’ll only guide you toward a shoulder replacement if nonsurgical treatments aren’t effectively managing your painful symptoms.

How to know if you need a shoulder replacement

The only way to know if you need a shoulder replacement is to talk to an orthopedic surgeon. If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s time to talk to a doctor about your concerns.

  • You have difficulty getting dressed because of shoulder pain or stiffness
  • Nonsurgical treatments are not effective at managing your shoulder symptoms
  • You have shoulder pain while resting
  • You notice weakness or loss of motion in your shoulder
  • Shoulder pain is keeping you from doing the things you love

Types of shoulder replacement surgeries

Depending on your condition, we may recommend one of the following types of shoulder replacement surgery:

Partial shoulder replacement

A partial shoulder replacement, sometimes called a shoulder hemiarthroplasty, is a procedure where only part of the shoulder is replaced with prosthetic parts. Usually, the ball of the shoulder is replaced but it sits in the shoulder’s natural socket.

In some cases, our surgeons will need to resurface the socket during this procedure in order to smooth out any damaged tissue so the shoulder can move smoothly. This procedure may be recommended if the shoulder socket is in good shape with minimal damage.

Total shoulder replacement

A total shoulder replacement, also known as total shoulder arthroplasty, is when we remove the entire shoulder joint and replace it with an artificial one. During a total shoulder replacement, we remove all the damaged cartilage and insert a new ball and socket so your shoulder can move smoothly again.

This type of shoulder replacement is typically recommended if there is severe damage from arthritis or other conditions, and there isn’t enough healthy tissue in the shoulder.

Total shoulder replacement is the most common shoulder replacement surgery, but isn’t always the best treatment option. If you have a damaged rotator cuff or plan to remain very active after your shoulder replacement, we may recommend a different kind of surgery.

Reverse shoulder replacement

Normally, the ball of your shoulder is part of your upper arm bone and the socket resides in your shoulder blade. During a reverse shoulder replacement, this setup is reversed. Our surgeon attaches an artificial ball to the shoulder blade and an artificial socket to the arm bone.

We perform reverse shoulder replacements when a patient’s ligaments aren’t strong enough and they need the help of the muscle to keep the shoulder joint in place.

Shoulder replacement surgery recovery time

After shoulder replacement surgery, most of our patients go home in two or three days. You won’t be able to move your arm, wrist or fingers much in the days following surgery. You’ll also be asked to wear a removable sling for 4-6 weeks after the procedure.

The amount of time it takes you to recover from your shoulder replacement surgery depends on many different factors, including the type of surgery you had. In most cases, you can go back to work 3-4 weeks after your surgery, but it will take up to six months to heal completely.

Hotel Recovery Program

When you need care nearby, but still want the comforts of home, our Hotel Recovery Program might be right for you. With this program, patients are able to spend their first night recovering in a hotel.

This is often a more affordable option compared to an overnight hospital stay. And with the Hotel Recovery Program, we bring the care to you. You’ll have physical therapy and other follow-up care from the comfort of your room.

Physical therapy after a shoulder replacement

Physical therapy is an important part of your recovery. You’ll start working with one of our physical therapists as soon as possible after your shoulder replacement surgery.

The initial therapy will involve moving your fingers, wrist and elbow. Within a short period of time, you’ll begin motion exercises for your shoulder. Therapy will continue for several weeks.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Artificial shoulders typically last for 15 years. However, how long your shoulder replacement lasts will depend on a variety of factors like your age, lifestyle and the type of shoulder replacement surgery you had. In most cases, artificial shoulders don’t last as long in younger patients because their more active lifestyle puts additional wear and tear on the joint. Your orthopedic surgeon will recommend the best type of artificial joint based on your lifestyle and unique needs.

If you have any questions about how long your shoulder replacement will last, our orthopedic surgeons can answer them.

Preparing for your shoulder replacement surgery can help your recovery go more smoothly. There are a few easy steps you can take to get ready.

  • Get your home ready. You won’t be able to move your arm much for the first few weeks after surgery. Move items you use regularly to places that are easy to reach. Avoid storing things in places that are too high or too low.
  • Ask your friends and family for help. You’ll need help with household chores, cooking and driving for a few weeks after surgery. Reach out to loved ones before your procedure to make a plan for how they can support you while you recover. If you’re not sure who to ask, consider your neighbors, coworkers and other people you see regularly.
  • Arrange a ride home from surgery. If you need help getting a ride, our team will help you find a way to get you home safely.
  • Pack a bag. While many of our patients go straight home after surgery, some recover at a nearby hotel or the hospital. Gathering necessary items like your photo ID, comfortable clothes, cell phone charger and other comforts will ensure you have everything you need after your procedure.

You’ll need a lot of help while you recover from your shoulder replacement surgery. Your ability to use your arm will be limited, making it difficult for you to drive, do chores and care for yourself or others in your household. Having someone help care for you during the first few weeks after your surgery is a key part of your recovery.

Patients often tell us they aren’t sure who to ask to help them after their surgery. Any capable adult can lend a hand during your recovery. We recommend asking your neighbors, coworkers, family members or friends.

Shoulder replacement recovery time varies depending on the type of shoulder surgery you had, your physical ability, your age and other factors. In most cases, you can expect to go back to normal day-to-day activities about three weeks after surgery.

You’ll need to avoid heavy lifting and other arm movements that use the shoulder for several weeks after surgery. In most cases, you’ll be fully healed six months after surgery, though you should be able to increase your activity level long before then.

In most cases, you’ll be able to drive 4-6 weeks after shoulder replacement surgery. Consult with your surgeon before starting any new activity.

We accept most health insurance plans, including Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, CIGNA, HealthPartners, Medica, Medicare, Medicare Advantage, PreferredOne and many others.

You can check with your insurance to see if your plan covers part or all of the services needed. Don’t have your card in front of you? Here are member services numbers to help you get started: