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The technique of total shoulder replacement, also called arthroplasty, removes the damaged bone and cartilage in a joint. The bone is replaced with implants made from metal alloy and polyethylene (plastic), re-creating the smooth gliding surfaces that were once intact. The purpose of the procedure is to restore movement and decrease or eliminate pain.

Benefits of Total Shoulder Replacement

  • Eliminate or reduce pain
  • Enhance movement and mobility
  • Improve quality of life
  • Return to normal activity
  • Low-impact sports and activities

Total shoulder replacement is one option available to you and your surgeon. Only your orthopedic surgeon can determine if you are a candidate for this implant or if another type of implant would better suit your unique situation.


While uncommon, complications can occur during and after surgery. Some complications include infection, implant breakage, nerve damage, and fracture.  Although implant surgery is extremely successful in most cases, some patients still experience stiffness and pain. No implant will last forever and factors such as the patient’s post-surgical activities and weight can affect longevity. Be sure to discuss these and other risks with your surgeon.

Preparing for Surgery

Patients should begin preoperative strengthening exercises to help them prepare for surgery and their recovery. Patients may be given a comprehensive nutrition plan to help ensure optimum health before surgery.

There are many things that your surgeon may do to minimize the potential for complications. Your surgeon may have you see a medical physician before surgery to obtain tests. You may also need to have your dental work up to date and may be shown how to prepare your home to avoid falls.

After Surgery

After surgery, you probably will be hospitalized for 1 to 3 days. The day after surgery, the bandages will be removed, and you will begin conservative physical therapy to restore motion and promote blood flow and to facilitate the recovery process to your shoulder. 

You may wear a sling for up to 6 weeks after surgery to protect the soft tissues in your shoulder while they are healing. During this time, a physical therapist will teach you a variety of stretching exercises that will help you restore motion to your shoulder.

At home, it is important to continue with your exercises as your physician has instructed. It is a good idea to enlist the help of friends or family to help you once you do return home.


Patients who have had total shoulder replacement typically require many weeks before returning to any type of lifting or repetitive movement activities. Every person’s recovery time will vary, but most people should be able to drive in 2 to 6 weeks, garden in 2 months, and golf in 3 months after surgery. Your surgeon will tell you when you can return to these activities and will also tell you which activities to avoid.

You will typically not be allowed to participate in high-impact activities or contact sports. These types of activities place extreme pressure on the shoulder joint, which could lead to complications.

All patient education materials are provided by and have been reviewed by our Advisory Board of leading Orthopedic Surgeons to ensure accuracy. All materials are provided for informational purposes only and are not intended to be a substitute for medical advice from your orthopedic surgeon. Any medical decisions should be made after consulting a qualified physician. This site includes links to other web sites. takes no responsibility for the content or information contained in the linked sites.

Locations & Directions

Camalier Building
10215 Fernwood Road
Suite 502
Bethesda, MD 20817

Washington Joint Institute

Highline at Greensboro District
8401 Greensboro Drive
Suite 120
McLean, VA 22102