When Do I Need a Total Shoulder Replacement?

When people think of joint replacement surgery, hips and knees usually come to mind first. However, more than 70,000 shoulder replacement surgeries occur each year, making them one of the fastest-growing joint replacement procedures in the country. So how do you know when to consider this treatment option for your shoulder pain?

In North Palm Beach, Florida, Thomas F. Saylor, MD, brings more than 20 years of experience to the Orthopaedic Care Specialists team. If you have shoulder problems, he recommends asking yourself these questions.

What’s wrong with your shoulder?

When you undergo a total shoulder replacement, Dr. Saylor replaces the ball at the top of your upper arm bone and the socket in your shoulder blade with artificial components. This approach helps relieve pain by removing damaged areas where these bones rub against each other. 

Arthritis is a common reason people undergo shoulder replacement surgery. When you have arthritis, the cartilage cushioning the bones in your shoulder starts breaking down, creating friction and inflammation in your joint. Common causes of arthritis in the shoulder include:

Before considering surgery, Dr. Saylor will thoroughly examine your shoulder. After your examination, Dr. Saylor will explain what’s wrong and whether or not conservative options may be able to help. If you have extensive damage in your shoulder joint, it could be time to consider surgery.

Can you manage your symptoms with less invasive methods?

In most cases, Dr. Saylor only recommends shoulder replacement surgery when more conservative treatments have failed. That’s because shoulder replacement surgery can take approximately three hours, includes general anesthetic, and often requires a hospital stay of 3-5 days, followed by several months of rehabilitation. 

While shoulder replacement surgery comes with a patient satisfaction rate of 90%, Dr. Saylor recommends trying to manage your symptoms with less invasive methods first, including:

If your symptoms don’t respond to these conservative approaches, Dr. Saylor could recommend minimally invasive surgery, including a shoulder replacement.

What are your overall goals?

It may seem like the answer to this question is obvious: to get pain relief and restore shoulder function. However, while shoulder replacement surgery can definitely do those things, you should still have clear expectations when considering this procedure. 

Pain relief

While most people feel very satisfied with their pain relief after having a shoulder replacement, they can continue to ache depending on their activity and weather changes. Plus, your new shoulder joint may not work exactly the same way it did before your procedure. 


The amount of function you regain after shoulder replacement surgery can vary depending on several factors. These factors may include how long your mobility has been limited and the health of the connective tissue in the area, such as your rotator cuff tendons.


Surgery is never easy, but you should plan on a lengthy rehab process when having shoulder replacement surgery. This often involves several months of physical therapy while you heal, regular office visits with Dr. Saylor, and not being able to drive for 4-6 weeks.


Sure, your new artificial joint may make you feel like you’ve turned back the hands of time. However, shoulder replacements only last about 10-20 years, so you could need a second surgery in the future if your new joint wears out.

To see if a total shoulder replacement is right for you, book an appointment online or over the phone with Orthopaedic Care Specialists today.

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