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Shoulder Replacement

Introduction

Shoulder replacement, also known as total shoulder arthroplasty, is a surgical procedure in which all or part of the shoulder joint is replaced by a prosthetic implant.  This joint replacement surgery is usually conducted to relieve arthritis pain or fix severe physical joint damage.

Anatomy

The shoulder is made up of three bones:  the upper arm bone (humerus), the shoulder blade (scapula), and the collarbone (clavicle).  The shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint.  The ball, or head, of the upper arm bone fits into a shallow socket in the shoulder blade.  The surfaces of the bones in contact with each other are covered with cartilage, a smooth substance that protects the bones and enables them to move easily.  The muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder provide stability and support.

Causes

Shoulder replacement surgery is usually done when you have severe pain in the shoulder area which limits your ability to move your arm.  Some of the possible causes of shoulder pain are from arthritis, broken bones, badly damaged or torn tissue in the shoulder, or a tumor in or around the shoulder.

Symptoms

The symptoms that arise that may lead you to need shoulder replacement surgery are pain with activities, limited range of motion, stiffness in the shoulder, swelling in the shoulder joint, tenderness around the joint, or a feeling of grinding in the shoulder.  These symptoms can stem from a number of different shoulder problems, thus prompting your doctor to evaluate whether or not you may need shoulder replacement surgery.

Diagnosis

Your physician will need to take x-rays of your shoulder to find out what is the main cause behind your shoulder pain, and to see if you are a candidate for needing shoulder replacement.  The x-ray will be instrumental in showing the condition of the joint.

Treatment

The primary goal of shoulder replacement surgery is pain relief, with a secondary benefit of restoring motion, strength, function, and assisting with returning patients to an activity level as near to normal as possible.  Your physical therapist will provide a list of exercises that you can do to keep your muscles strong without damaging the replaced shoulder.  These exercises are necessary to prevent your elbow and shoulder from getting stiff.  The therapist will help you in regaining full range of motion while also allowing for adequate soft tissue healing.

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