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01st April 2023

Reverse Shoulder Replacement Surgery: Healing Time and What To Expect

Dr. Devan Patel, PharmD
Reverse Shoulder Replacement Surgery: Healing Time and What To Expect

When shoulder pain becomes too serious, surgery is sometimes the best option. Shoulder pain conditions like arthritis and rotator cuff tears are commonly treated with steroid injections, pain medications, and physical therapy. 

These treatments may work for some but for others, a reverse shoulder replacement may be necessary. A reverse shoulder replacement replaces the joint in your shoulder and reverses the position of your shoulder's ball and socket. 

Though the procedure is new, it's becoming more common for treating shoulder pain. Keep reading to learn more about reverse shoulder replacement and what to expect after undergoing the surgery. 


What is reverse shoulder replacement surgery?

reverse shoulder replacement surgery is a procedure that replaces the ball and socket joint of your shoulder. It's performed on people who have severe pain in the shoulder from either a rotator cuff injury or arthritis. 

Your shoulder joint is naturally formed with the ball of the joint on your arm, which fits into your shoulder. A reverse shoulder replacement reverses how your shoulder joint is structured. 

What this means is the ball of your shoulder joint will be attached to your shoulder bone and the socket will be attached to your arm bone. Once this procedure is done, you will instead use your shoulder muscles to stabilize your new joint, rather than your rotator cuff. 


What To Expect After a Shoulder Replacement

Reverse shoulder replacement surgery typically takes about 2-3 hours to complete. Your surgeon will make an incision in the front of your shoulder to perform the procedure. 

After surgery, you'll be moved into a recovery room, where you'll be monitored until you awaken from anesthesia. Most people should expect to spend 2-3 days in the hospital after a reverse shoulder replacement, but this may vary depending on how well you are recovering.

Right after surgery, you may experience some numbness in the operated arm from the regional anesthesia. You may also not be able to move your fingers or wrist due to anesthesia side effects.

Some pain is also to be expected after surgery, but your medical team will provide pain medication as needed to make you as comfortable as possible during this period. Additionally, your medical team should provide ice packs for your shoulder to reduce swelling and pain. 

Finally, your arm will be placed in a sling before going home. Most people will need to keep the sling on for the next 4-6 weeks post-surgery. Although you may be able to perform certain tasks such as dressing yourself after the first week, full recovery from reverse shoulder replacement surgery can take up to 4 months. 


What Does Shoulder Replacement Recovery Look Like?

Recovering from shoulder replacement surgery will take time and patience. Your arm will be in a sling for the first 6 weeks, so be sure to enlist friends and family to help you out with basic tasks. You may also be in some pain, so taking time off work may be necessary for at least the first week post-surgery. 

Below are some more things you should expect during your reverse shoulder replacement recovery. 


Swelling and Bruising

Swelling and bruising around the incision site and the entire arm are common after shoulder replacement surgery. There's not much you can do about it other than follow your doctor's aftercare instructions which will consist of medication and icing. 

Your doctor may suggest using a combination of cold and compression therapy to facilitate healing after surgery. Cold therapy can alleviate initial swelling and pain during recovery, while compression helps to reduce edema and eliminate cellular waste from the affected shoulder joint.

Over time, the swelling and bruising will fade. 


Limited Mobility

For the first few weeks after surgery, you won't have full mobility of your shoulder. Lifting things over your head, carrying heavy objects, or even certain household tasks will be difficult if not impossible. Plan ahead by enlisting help or rearranging furniture at home so you can function more normally. 


Physical Therapy

After surgery, it is recommended to start with limited range-of-motion exercises including stretching and pendulum exercises. A physical therapist can assist in determining the suitable approach for recovery, ensuring that strength is built while protecting healing tissues. Typically, individuals commence more advanced strengthening routines 4-6 weeks after the surgery.


Medication and Supplements

Your doctor will prescribe you medications to prevent infection and ease pain and inflammation. Make sure you have these prescriptions filled ahead of time so they are ready for you when you need them. These should be taken on an as-needed basis. 

Your doctor may also suggest certain supplements to help ease inflammation and speed up recovery. Multi-nutrient supplements like WoundVite can be taken daily as a secondary measure for wound care.

Natural supplements like WoundVite use vitamins, minerals, and plant-based ingredients that naturally aid in wound recovery.* 

The Takeaway

Reverse shoulder replacement is an increasingly popular surgery with a high success rate. Knowing what to expect will help you better navigate your recovery strategy. Though recovery will take time and patience, following certain aftercare procedures can make recovery a much speedier process. 


 *This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.