Shoulder Joint Replacement


You've probably heard of professional athletes who miss several games or an entire season after a shoulder injury. But shoulder problems are common among the general population, too. You may not realize how often you use your shoulders to reach, push, pull or lift until you experience pain, stiffness or weakness.

If your symptoms prevent you from performing everyday tasks, shoulder replacement surgery may help where other treatments haven’t.

Understanding the Shoulder Joint

Your shoulder is a very flexible joint. It allows more range of motion than any other joint in your body.

The shoulder is called a ball-and-socket joint because of the way your bones fit together. The end of your upper arm has a rounded shape, like a ball. It fits into a cup-shaped hollow (socket) in your shoulder blade. A layer of slippery tissue (cartilage) connects these bones and helps them glide against each other.

Causes of Shoulder Pain

People can have shoulder pain for several reasons:

  • Joint degeneration occurs when cartilage wears away over time, due to normal wear-and-tear.
  • Medical conditions such as arthritis cause joint inflammation and can speed up cartilage loss. As cartilage disappears, causing bone to rub against bone, we feel pain, stiffness and swelling.
  • Injuries such as a shoulder fracture or dislocation. Some people need shoulder replacement surgery after a severe fracture. And damage from other injuries can make your shoulder prone to arthritis later in life.

Mild shoulder pain may be managed with medication or physical therapy. But if your pain gets worse, it can interfere with normal activity. You may have trouble pulling on a shirt, washing your hair or reaching into a cupboard.

About Shoulder Replacement Surgery

Shoulder replacement surgery replaces the damaged parts of your shoulder with metal or plastic parts. These artificial parts are sometimes called an implant or prosthesis.

After surgery most patients report little or no pain and a stronger, working shoulder. And modern implants may last 10-20 years before needing replacement.

If you’re tired of living with shoulder pain or instability, Mercy’s orthopedic surgeons can help. Our doctors have experience diagnosing and treating most shoulder problems, including osteoarthritis, fractures and rotator cuff injuries.

Together you and your doctor will decide if shoulder replacement surgery is right for you. Depending on your diagnosis, you may have one of the following procedures:

  • Partial shoulder replacement replaces only the “ball” of your upper arm bone. This may be an option if the bone and cartilage in your socket is still healthy.
  • Total shoulder replacement, or total shoulder arthroplasty, replaces both the ball and socket portions of your joint.
  • Joint revision surgery replaces artificial parts that have become loose, damaged, infected or worn out.

Shoulder pain doesn’t have to be permanent. Talk to your Mercy physician about your treatment options. Whether you’re tired of sitting on the sidelines or have given up gardening, we’ll help you get back in the game.

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