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Proper shoulder function is necessary for us to throw a football, swing a bat, or shoot a basketball. But when we suffer from the pain and stiffness of shoulder arthritis, it affects more than just our athletic performance. The amazing mobility of the shoulder allows us to accomplish all of our activities of daily living such as getting dressed, bathing, or brushing our teeth. Because of how frequently the shoulder is used, it is susceptible to wear-and-tear damage, in addition to serious injury.

If your shoulder pain is keeping you on the sidelines of the sport you love or interfering with your day-to-day routines, it may be time to consider shoulder replacement surgery. 

Understanding Your Shoulder: Basic Anatomy

Did you know your shoulder is one of your body’s most flexible joints? The unique anatomy of the shoulder is what permits the tremendous range of motion we count on every day. The spherical shape of the top of the humerus acts as a “ball” which sits in the “socket” created by the part of the shoulder blade called the glenoid together with an envelope of soft tissues. Unlike the hip, the bony shape of the glenoid is only slightly concave.  You can think of it like a golf tee. Around the rim of the glenoid is a rubbery cartilage called the labrum.  The rotator cuff tendons and the glenohumeral ligaments envelop the humeral head and help keep it poised on the glenoid.

Your shoulder is comprised of three bones:

  • Shoulder blade (scapula)- The scapula is a triangular-shaped bone that is located between the upper arm bone (humerus) and the collarbone (clavicle). The glenoid is the  part of the scapula that forms the socket.
  • Upper arm bone (humerus)- The humerus has a rounded top (the humeral head) that allows it to fit into the socket of the scapula, known as the glenoid cavity. 
  • Collarbone (clavicle)- The clavicle is the only bony connection of your arm to your body. It stretches between the part of the scapula called the acromion and the sternum. 

Articular cartilage, a slippery and flexible material, covers the ends of the bones in your shoulder. The articular cartilage allows the bones to glide against each other smoothly and cushions the bones to prevent damaging impact to one another. Damage to the articular cartilage in your shoulder can over time lead to forms of arthritis such as osteoarthritis. 

What Causes Arthritis?

The most common shoulder injuries typically involve the muscles, tendons (rotator cuff), ligaments, or the labrum cartilage. Traumatic injuries including rotator cuff tears and shoulder dislocation don’t immediately cause arthritis.  It is an accumulation of damage to the joint over time (along with your genetic predisposition) which typically leads to arthritis. Shoulder arthritis manifests as a progressive increase in pain along with a progressive decrease in range of motion.  Non surgical treatment options include anti inflammatory medications such as Ibuprofen, physical therapy, and cortisone injections.

When all of the non surgical remedies stop working, shoulder replacement surgery may be a beneficial option to pursue. 

What is Shoulder Replacement Surgery? 

While the idea of shoulder replacement surgery may seem intimidating, you are not alone. An estimated 53,000 people in the U.S. have shoulder replacement surgery each year. While Dr. Michael Rytel offers various non-surgical treatment options, shoulder replacement surgery sometimes is the best way to resume the everyday activities and sports you enjoy. So what does shoulder replacement surgery entail? Let’s break it down: 

  • The surgical procedure begins by separating parts of the shoulder muscle to access the arthritic ball-and-socket joint. 
  • Once the arthritic sections of the joint are removed, the damaged humeral head (the “ball” of the ball-and-socket joint) is replaced with a metal ball. 
  • After the humeral head is replaced, the socket (glenoid) is replaced with a smooth, plastic, gently curved “cup”. 
  • The muscle and skin are stitched closed, and a bandage is placed on the skin to provide temporary coverage. The arm is placed in a sling.

Shoulder replacement surgery typically lasts about two hours, including allotting time for anesthesia. Following the procedure, proper recovery and rehabilitation is vital to achieving optimal results. 

Recovery Process Following Shoulder Replacement Surgery 

After shoulder replacement surgery, many patients spend one night in the hospital although it is possible to go home the same day.  Patients will typically wear a sling for the initial two to four weeks of the recovery process. During this time, patients are advised to avoid heaving lifting or actions that involve push or pull movements. While rest is important, active rehabilitation is key to a quick and effective recovery. Dr. Rytel will be an active part of your recovery process by prescribing physical therapy sessions and at-home exercises. 

The initial exercises are intended to help manage pain and to prevent stiffness. The exercises include finger, wrist, and elbow movement, as well as light shoulder movement. As you advance, the focus changes to restoring strength and function. If your goal is to return to the activities you love as quickly as possible, it is imperative that you follow through with these exercises. 

Consider Seeing Pittsburgh’s Trusted Shoulder Surgeon

Fighting through shoulder pain or injury will not only worsen your current condition, but can also lead to further long-term consequences. If you are experiencing any of the following conditions, you may want to consider seeking the expertise of Dr. Michael Rytel to explore the option of shoulder replacement surgery

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
  • Post-traumatic arthritis 
  • Rotator cuff tear arthropathy 
  • A broken or fractured shoulder
  • Failed prior shoulder replacement surgery

You may also be a candidate for shoulder replacement if you are experiencing symptoms such as:

  • Severe shoulder pain that affects your ability to wash or dress yourself 
  • Loss of mobility and/or weakness in your shoulder
  • Pain that prevents you from getting a good night’s sleep
  • Failure to improve with nonsurgical treatment options 

Don’t allow your shoulder injury to worsen! Dr. Michael Rytel wants to help you get back to the sport you love and enjoy a better quality of life. 

Fortunately, with the expertise of Dr. Michael Rytel, you don’t have to worry about the consequences of your shoulder injury affecting your ability to play the sport you love or complete your day-to-day routines. 

As one of the best orthopedic surgeons in the Pittsburgh region, Dr. Rytel is here to provide you with specialized care to diagnose and treat your condition. Looking for a shoulder surgeon near you? Schedule an appointment with Dr. Rytel today, or call (412)-661-5500 for more information.