physical therapy shoulder exercise

What to Expect After Shoulder Replacement Surgery

This article was last updated on August 2, 2016

Your doctor will exhaust every option to treat shoulder pain before recommending surgery. But sometimes, surgery is an option to help improve function and decrease pain in your shoulder.

Although the surgery itself usually takes just a couple hours, recovering from shoulder replacement surgery can take months to well over a year. You’ll go through a physical therapy program, as well as follow an exercise plan at home. According to Craig Mauro, MD, how well you stick to these plans will determine how successful, and how fast, your recovery is.

Recovery Immediately After Shoulder Replacement Surgery

After surgery, you’ll likely go home after a couple days in the hospital. You will have a sling on your arm to protect and support your shoulder.

Physical therapy often starts right away. At first a therapist will help you do passive movement exercises, which means you will relax and let the therapist move your arm for you. You shouldn’t use your shoulder muscles for a few weeks after surgery.

The main goal of early physical therapy is to help the patient to begin to perform daily activities such as bathing, dressing, and driving.

Although the exercises may seem minor at first, they are important to keeping your shoulder loose, and they set the foundation for more advanced exercises.

Dr. Mauro cautions to watch for signs of infection and to be sure to take care of the incision site. Call your doctor if you have:

  • A fever over 100.5 degrees
  • Drainage from the incision
  • Pain that can’t be managed with the medication given

RELATED: What Is Reverse Shoulder Replacement Surgery?

Recovery a Few Weeks After Shoulder Replacement Surgery

Your doctor will tell you when it’s safe to begin using your shoulder muscles again. You can expect to have about six weeks of limited activity following shoulder replacement surgery.

After the first six weeks, you will likely do some stretching and strengthening exercises with a therapist. You will move on to more challenging exercises after about three months.

RELATED: What to Expect During Physical Therapy

Recovery Three to Six Months After Shoulder Replacement Surgery

Physical therapy will often last three to six months after surgery. It may take a year or more to maximize recovery of overhead motion.

Your eventual ability to raise your arm over your head depends on the damage in your shoulder and your range of motion before surgery, as well as your participation in physical therapy after the surgery.

Your doctor will give you guidelines for limiting the stress on your shoulder joint to keep the parts from wearing out and to help prevent injury. Your doctor will also monitor you in the coming years to be sure the implant is working properly.

Are you living with shoulder pain? Speak with an expert with UPMC Orthopaedic Care to find out if shoulder surgery may be right for you, or if there are other options that may help you regain your full range of motion. Call 1-866-987-ORTHO (6784) to schedule an appointment to speak with an expert