Is Shoulder Replacement Surgery Worth It?

Living with shoulder pain can be debilitating, affecting every aspect of your life, from work to leisure activities. Shoulder replacement surgery offers a solution, providing pain relief, improved mobility, and a new lease on life. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore different types of shoulder replacement surgeries, discuss the factors that may lead to the need for such a procedure, and delve into the potential risks and benefits. Moreover, we’ll emphasize the importance of choosing an experienced shoulder surgeon for optimal outcomes, and address the question: “is shoulder replacement surgery worth it?”

Key Takeaways

  • Shoulder replacement surgery is used to reduce pain and improve function, with recovery times estimated at 6 months to 2 years.
  • A comprehensive evaluation of the need for shoulder replacement surgery is conducted through diagnostic tests such as MRI, blood tests, ECG & X-rays/CT scans.
  • Potential risks include infection, bleeding & prosthesis loosening. Benefits include improved range of motion and enhanced quality of life.

Understanding Shoulder Replacement Surgery

Shoulder replacement surgery involves replacing damaged parts of the shoulder joint with artificial implants to relieve pain and improve function. The two most common types of shoulder replacement surgeries are anatomic total shoulder replacement and reverse total shoulder replacement.

We’ll examine these two surgical procedures in more depth in the subsequent sections.

Anatomic Total Shoulder Replacement

This procedure typically lasts less than 90 minutes and is known to provide significant pain relief
and improved range of motion.

Two types of implants are utilized in anatomic total shoulder replacement: short-stem shoulder replacement and stemless shoulder replacement. Recovery time can vary, but it is generally estimated to take 6 months to 1 year to reach maximum benefit and full recovery. In some cases, it may take up to 1-2 years to develop strength in the shoulder and regain your usual level of function.

Reverse Total Shoulder Replacement

Reverse total shoulder replacement, also known as reverse shoulder replacement surgery, is a specialized surgery for people who have rotator cuff tears and arthritis. It provides a unique opportunity for these individuals to regain mobility. 

This procedure is frequently used for patients with rotator cuff tears or other shoulder conditions that restrict shoulder function. The main difference between reverse total shoulder replacement and anatomic total shoulder replacement is the reversal of the anatomy and the reliance on different muscles for shoulder function. By relying on the deltoid muscles instead of the rotator cuff muscles, patients can experience improved mobility and pain relief.

Evaluating the Need for Shoulder Replacement Surgery

Shoulder replacement surgery may be recommended for age-related wear and tear, arthritis, or severe fractures that cause pain and impede mobility. Diagnostic tests such as MRI, X-rays, and CT scans are employed to evaluate the necessity for shoulder replacement surgery and determine when to recommend shoulder replacement surgery.

Each of these factors will be dissected in greater depth in the subsequent sections.

Age-Related Wear and Tear

Age-related wear and tear can lead to shoulder joint damage through a variety of mechanisms. The cartilage in the shoulder joint can gradually wear down, resulting in decreased cushioning and increased friction between the bones. This can result in the development of osteoarthritis, a condition characterized by joint inflammation and pain.

Additionally, advanced age is associated with a higher incidence of rotator cuff tears, which can be caused by degeneration and weakening of the tendons over time. Pain and degenerative arthritis can further exacerbate the issues within the shoulder joint, particularly in the rotator cuff.

Rotator cuff tears are quite common in older individuals, with the prevalence increasing with age.

Common indications of age-related shoulder wear and tear include:

  • Discomfort at rest and during the night
  • Difficulty lifting
  • Rigidity
  • Decreased range of motion

These symptoms may signal the need for further evaluation and possible shoulder replacement surgery.


Arthritis can cause joint inflammation and damage, leading to the need for shoulder replacement surgery. Osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and rotator cuff tear arthropathy are known to potentially require shoulder replacement surgery. Arthritis in the shoulder joint can cause inflammation, pain, and stiffness, resulting in difficulty lifting the arm and a decrease in function.

Indications of arthritis in the shoulder include:

  • Pain exacerbated by activity
  • Restricted range of motion
  • Stiffness
  • Popping or clicking noises in the shoulder joint

If these symptoms persist and significantly affect your daily life, it may be time to consult a shoulder specialist to discuss treatment options, including shoulder replacement surgery.

Severe Fractures

Severe fractures in the upper arm bone may require shoulder replacement surgery to restore function and relieve pain. These fractures can cause significant damage to the shoulder joint, making it difficult to move the arm and perform daily activities. Diagnostic tests such as X-rays and CT scans are utilized to ascertain the location and severity of the injury.

Typical indications of severe shoulder fractures include:

  • Shoulder pain
  • Swelling
  • Bruising or discoloration
  • Limited mobility of the shoulder
  • A grating sensation when the shoulder is moved
  • Difficulty lifting the arm
  • Numbness in the upper arm

If a severe fracture is diagnosed, shoulder replacement surgery may be considered as a treatment
option to treat severe shoulder fractures, alleviate pain, and restore function.

Potential Risks and Complications

Despite the numerous benefits of shoulder replacement surgery, awareness of potential risks and complications is also crucial. While shoulder replacement surgery is generally considered to be a safe surgery with a high success rate, it is advisable to discuss these potential risks and complications with your shoulder specialist to make sure you are a good candidate for this surgery.

The Benefits of Shoulder Replacement Surgery

Shoulder replacement surgery, which involves the ball and socket joint located near the shoulder blade, can provide significant benefits, including pain relief, improved range of motion, and enhanced quality of life. In this procedure, the damaged socket joint is replaced with a prosthetic component to ensure smooth functioning. The subsequent sections will further explore these benefits, contemplating the worthiness of shoulder replacement surgery for those enduring chronic shoulder pain.

Enhanced Quality of Life

One of the most significant benefits of shoulder replacement surgery is the enhanced quality of life it offers patients. By relieving pain and improving mobility, patients can generally return to their daily activities with less pain and discomfort. 

Patients can generally expect to return to their daily activities within a few weeks to a few months, depending on their individual progress and the type of surgery performed. Adhering to the rehabilitation program prescribed by a physical therapist and allowing the tissues to heal before initiating strengthening exercises is crucial for a successful recovery. Physical therapy plays a vital role in this process.

Is It Worth It?

For many people struggling with shoulder pain, shoulder replacement surgery is often worth it due to the opportunity to live without chronic pain and regain mobility. However, it is important to consult a shoulder specialist and weigh the pros and cons before making a decision. Consider factors such as:

  • Pain levels
  • Mobility issues
  • Overall health
  • Personal goals

When deciding if surgery is the right option, it’s important to consider both the ball and its potential impact on your overall health. The decision to have shoulder replacement surgery is ultimately up to the patient, but consulting a shoulder specialist can give the best idea of what to expect and help decide the best treatment option. The opportunity to live without chronic shoulder pain and regain mobility can be life-changing for many individuals.

Choosing an Experienced Shoulder Surgeon

For the best possible outcome in shoulder replacement surgery, selecting an experienced shoulder surgeon is of utmost importance. An experienced surgeon can provide the best care and has a higher success rate in performing shoulder replacement surgeries.

Dr. Eric Giang in Modesto, CA

Dr. Eric Giang in Modesto, CA, is an accomplished orthopedic surgeon specializing in shoulder replacement surgery. 

Patients of Dr. Giang can expect improved quality of life, increased mobility, and reduced pain due to his expertise in shoulder replacement surgery. His background, experience, and dedication to the field make him an excellent choice for those considering shoulder replacement surgery.


In conclusion, shoulder replacement surgery offers a solution for those struggling with chronic shoulder pain and limited mobility. With two main types of surgery available, anatomic total shoulder replacement and reverse total shoulder replacement, patients have options to suit their specific needs. While there are potential risks and complications associated with the procedure, the benefits often outweigh these concerns for many individuals. Consulting with an experienced shoulder surgeon, such as Dr. Eric Giang in Modesto, CA, is essential for the best possible outcome and a life free from chronic shoulder pain.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the downside of a shoulder replacement?

Shoulder replacement surgery carries potential risks such as infection, fracture, instability, loosening of the prosthesis, continued pain and weakness, and tearing of the rotator cuff muscles and tendons. Revision surgery may also be necessary.

Are shoulder replacement surgeries generally successful?

Yes, shoulder replacement surgeries are generally successful, particularly when it comes to improving joint function and relieving pain.

What is the average age for a shoulder replacement?

The average age for shoulder replacement is between 60 to 80 years old.

Is it a good idea to get a shoulder replacement?

Shoulder replacement is a viable option for those who have failed to find relief with other treatments like medications, therapy and steroid injections. It may be recommended when pain is severe, range of motion and strength are decreased, and daily activities are difficult to perform. Results of shoulder replacement usually include less pain and improved range of motion and strength.

What are the two most common types of shoulder replacement surgery?

The two most common types of shoulder replacement surgery are anatomic total shoulder
replacement and reverse total shoulder replacement.

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Orthopedic Surgeon Modesto CA Dr. Eric Giang

Dr. Eric Giang, DO

Dr. Giang is a leading fellowship-trained shoulder surgeon in Modesto, CA. As a trusted orthopedic surgeon, he is serving the Modesto community with a commitment to enhancing the quality of life for every patient.

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