11516.jpegDespite being so common, with more than 50,000 shoulder replacements performed in the U.S. each year, shoulder replacement surgery can be quite intimidating. However, if you meet certain criteria, the benefits can be life-changing.

Dr. Rytel understands that some patients may face uncertainty when deciding whether or not to move forward with a serious operation like shoulder replacement. In this article, we'll provide six clear signs that a shoulder replacement is the right next step for you.

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Shoulder Replacement Options

Shoulder replacement surgery is not a one-size-fits-all operation. Depending on the specific condition of your shoulder, Dr. Rytel might recommend different types of shoulder replacement surgeries:

  • Total Shoulder Replacement (Arthroplasty): Replaces both the ball (humeral head) and the socket (glenoid) of the shoulder joint.
  • Partial Shoulder Replacement: Only the ball of the joint is replaced, which is often considered when the socket is still in good condition.
  • Reverse Total Shoulder Replacement: The positions of the ball and socket are switched, making this option suitable for those with torn rotator cuff tendons and significant shoulder arthritis.

Critical Benefits of Shoulder Replacement Surgery

  • Pain Relief: Aims to relieve the severe pain that doesn't respond to other treatments.
  • Improved Mobility: Restores range of motion, allowing greater participation in daily activities.
  • Enhanced Quality of Life: Patients often experience a significant improvement in their ability to perform tasks without discomfort.

#1: Your Shoulder Pain Is Persistent

Have you had shoulder pain for a significant period (months or even years) that hasn’t improved, even with non-surgical treatments such as physical therapy, medication, or injections? If so, your condition is serious enough to consider a shoulder replacement.

If your range of motion is limited and impacts your daily activities, surgery may be necessary to improve your quality of life. Not to mention, continuing to delay treatment could potentially worsen your condition and make surgery more difficult down the road.

#2: Your Everyday Tasks Are Impacted

Have your day-to-day activities become increasingly complex and painful? When the pain becomes too much to handle and interferes with your ability to carry out regular activities, a shoulder replacement may be necessary.

The complexity of the shoulder joint, involving the upper arm bone, shoulder blade, and rotator cuff, allows for a wide range of motion. However, when these components are affected by injury or degeneration, even simple tasks can become challenging.

  • Getting dressed is difficult or painful, specifically reaching behind your back or lifting your arms to put on clothes.
  • Household chores like washing dishes, cleaning, or performing tasks that require lifting or extending your arms can be challenging due to pain.
  • Personal care and struggles with grooming activities, like brushing your hair or washing your back, can be difficult or impossible due to limited arm movement.
  • Sleeping is disrupted due to pain that worsens at night.
  • Activities you once enjoyed are now avoided due to pain and restricted movement.

#3: You’re No Longer Active

Are you finding that shoulder pain hinders your participation in sports or physical activities that were once a source of joy? Persistent shoulder discomfort causes these limitations, which are strong indicators that surgical intervention is necessary.

Opting for shoulder replacement surgery could restore your capacity to actively participate in these activities, enhancing your overall quality of life and well-being.

#4: Non-Surgical Treatments Have Not Worked

As mentioned earlier, non-surgical treatments are often used to manage pain. However, if these methods have not provided long-term relief and you continue to experience significant discomfort, it’s time to consider a shoulder replacement. Surgery is generally reserved for cases where non-surgical methods have failed, so you can rest assured that all other options have been exhausted before surgery is considered.

Before considering surgery, be sure to exhaust the following non-surgical measures:

Physical Therapy

  • Strengthening Exercises: Targeting the muscles around the shoulder, such as the rotator cuff muscles, to provide better stability and support.
  • Range of Motion Exercises: Aiming to improve the shoulder joints and surrounding areas' flexibility and mobility.


  • Anti-inflammatory Drugs: Over-the-counter or prescription medications to reduce inflammation and improve pain.
  • Cortisone Injections: A more direct approach for reducing inflammation in the shoulder, especially practical for rotator cuff injuries and arthritis.

Lifestyle Modifications

  • Activity Adjustment: Avoid activities that exacerbate shoulder pain, especially those involving repetitive heavy lifting or overhead motion.
  • Ergonomic Changes: Making adjustments at work and home to reduce strain on the shoulder during daily tasks.

#5: Your Shoulder Is Seriously Injured

If you've experienced a significant injury that has damaged your shoulder joint and the surrounding tissue, surgery may be required to correct the issue. It is essential to discuss this option with your doctor or a specialist like Dr. Rytel.

Some of the most common shoulder injuries leading to a necessary replacement include:

  • Severe Shoulder Fractures: When the bones in the shoulder, such as the upper arm bone (humerus) or the shoulder blade, are severely fractured, surgery might be necessary to reconstruct them. Total shoulder replacement surgery can be considered if the joint's structural integrity is compromised.
  • Severe Rotator Cuff Tears: A reverse shoulder replacement can be an option if the rotator cuff is extensively torn and cannot be repaired. This surgery allows other muscles to replace the damaged cuff, improving shoulder stability and motion.
  • Rotator Cuff Tear Arthropathy: This condition arises when a long-standing rotator cuff tear leads to severe arthritis in the shoulder. When traditional shoulder replacement is not viable due to the extent of the rotator cuff damage, a reverse shoulder replacement might be recommended.
  • Avascular Necrosis: A condition where the blood supply to the humeral head is disrupted, leading to the death of bone tissue. A total shoulder replacement might be necessary to replace the damaged humeral head with a metal ball and restore shoulder motion.

#6: Your Shoulder Is Affected By Arthritis

Arthritis is a common condition that can severely affect the shoulder, leading to pain, stiffness, and limited motion. When arthritis impacts the shoulder, especially after conservative treatments have failed to provide relief, a shoulder replacement might be a viable option for restoring function and relieving pain.

The two most common varieties of arthritis in the shoulder are:

  • Severe Osteoarthritis: Characterized by cartilage degeneration in the shoulder joint, leading to bone rubbing against bone. Total shoulder arthroplasty can relieve pain and restore motion in patients with end-stage arthritis.
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis: An autoimmune condition that causes joint inflammation and can severely damage the shoulder joint. Shoulder replacement surgery, either total or reverse, depending on the condition's severity, may be considered to relieve pain and improve function.

Arthritis in the shoulder typically involves cartilage degeneration in the ball and socket joint. This degeneration can lead to bone rubbing against bone, causing significant pain and limiting movement. 

Get Lasting Relief - Consult With Pittsburgh's Top Shoulder Surgeon

As a prospective patient, you shouldn't be frightened of shoulder surgery. It's a nearly guaranteed way to address your persistent pain permanently. Shoulder replacements are reliable and long-lasting, and some patients still reap benefits even after a decade.

Still, a complex operation like shoulder replacement needs a qualified surgeon behind the helm.Dr. Michael Rytel is a Board-Certified Orthopaedic & Sports Medicine Specialist, and an extensive list of satisfied patients can back his years of experience.

Don’t wait to receive the care you need! Contact us today to schedule an appointment, or visit Rytel Sports Medicine & Orthopaedics to learn more about how we can help you stay active and safe this spring.

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