Total shoulder replacement

Physical Therapy for Total Shoulder Replacement and Reverse Total Shoulder Replacement

If you have been told you need shoulder replacement surgery, including a total shoulder replacement or a reverse total shoulder replacement, then you might worry about pain or how well you’ll be able to move your shoulder in the future. Fortunately, shoulder replacement procedures are highly successful in over 95% of people, and with post-surgery physical therapy, your chances of being pain-free and going back to your normal, everyday routine can be expected. For some individuals, physical therapy before a shoulder replacement procedure may contribute to the success of the surgery, followed by a continuation of mobility exercises and rehabilitation with your PT.

At Evolution, we have helped countless people recover after their shoulder replacements and watched them return to their everyday lives soon after. Not only do we specialize in orthopedic rehabilitation and shoulder replacement physical therapy, but we focus on your overall recovery and education too so that you can reclaim your best life post-op.

Types of Shoulder Replacement Surgeries

Shoulder replacement surgery, also called shoulder arthroplasty, is a surgical procedure that seeks to restore movement and function to the shoulder by replacing some or all of the ball and socket joint with prosthetics when conservative treatments like physical therapy prove ineffective for managing your pain and improving your quality of life. This surgery may be necessary if you have suffered from osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, rotator cuff disease, or have otherwise injured your shoulder. The decision to have a total shoulder replacement is one you make with an orthopedic surgeon who has thoroughly evaluated your case. There are three types of shoulder replacement surgeries:

  • Partial Shoulder Replacement – also called a shoulder hemiarthroplasty, in this partial shoulder replacement surgery, your orthopedic surgeon will remove the damaged humeral head and replace it with a prosthetic humeral head. 
  • Total Shoulder Replacement – also called total shoulder arthroplasty, in this procedure, your orthopedic surgeon will replace the ball and socket of your shoulder joint with prosthetics.
  • Reverse Total Shoulder Arthroplasty- just like with total shoulder arthroplasty, in this procedure your orthopedic surgeon will replace the ball and socket joint with prosthetics. The only difference from total shoulder arthroplasty, is in a reverse total shoulder arthroplasty, the ball and socket joints are reversed. This is used in cases where the rotator cuff has suffered significant damage.

How Does Physical Therapy Help Before and After Shoulder Replacement Surgery?

Physical Therapy Before Surgery Shoulder Replacement Surgery

Before shoulder replacement surgery, your physical therapist can help you reduce swelling, limit pain, and increase your joint mobility. Ensuring you go into surgery feeling as good as possible will improve surgical outcomes. Some exercises you may work on prior to shoulder replacement surgery include:

  • Strengthening the shoulder and the surrounding structures of the shoulder including the neck and back
  • Increasing flexibility of the shoulder
  • Improving posture

Physical Therapy After Shoulder Replacement Surgery

After shoulder replacement surgery of any type, it is important to work with a licensed physical therapist in order to fully recover your range of motion and strength in the shoulder along with reducing your pain. Your physical therapist will provide you with exercises to help you get back to your daily activities, including work, play, and household responsibilities. Some exercises may include:

  • Simple techniques soon after surgery:
    • getting into and out of bed 
    • putting on and taking off your sling 
    • How to get dressed
  • Strengthening
  • Range of motion exercises
  • Flexibility training
  • Task-specific exercises
    • For sport
    • For work
    • For daily tasks

Can Shoulder Replacement Surgery Be Avoided with Physical Therapy?

Preventing shoulder replacement surgery may not always be possible, but seeing a physical therapist when you first begin experiencing shoulder pain may help. Your physical therapist can teach you how to modify activities to manage pain and can help you strengthen and stretch your shoulder and its surrounding structures. This in turn may allow you to avoid surgery altogether. Combining a physical therapy routine with healthy lifestyle techniques like proper nutrition and avoiding smoking and excess alcohol can also help prevent the need for surgical intervention.

When to see a Physical Therapist for Shoulder Pain Relief

If you are preparing for a shoulder replacement or you’re post-op and seeking a physical therapist, you should seek one who is specialized and experienced in rehabilitation post-procedure. At Evolution Physical Therapy, we have locations in California, Colorado, Connecticut, and Long Island, with specialist PT providers that offer a range of physical therapy services and help to provide you with the treatment, education, and additional support you need on your road to recovery. Reach out to us today by calling to set up an appointment at a location near you, or fill out our Request an Appointment form.