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Shoulder Arthroplasty


Shoulder arthroplasty is surgery to replace the shoulder joint. The shoulder joint includes the humerus (upper arm) and the scapula (shoulder blade). Healthcare providers use a prosthetic (artificial) implant for the replacement.



  • Pain medicine: You may be given a prescription medicine to decrease pain. Do not wait until the pain is severe before you take this medicine.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Follow up with your healthcare provider or orthopedic surgeon as directed:

You will need to return to have your shoulder checked, and your stitches or drain removed. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Wound and drain care:

Carefully wash the incision wound with soap and water. Dry the area and put on new, clean bandages as directed. Change your bandages when they get wet or dirty. Check your drain when you change your bandages. Do not pull your drain out. Ask for more information about wound and drain care.

Use an arm sling or a brace as directed:

You may need to wear a sling or brace to keep your shoulder close to your body and to prevent it from moving. This may help your shoulder heal faster and be more comfortable. Wear your sling or brace as directed by your healthcare provider or orthopedic surgeon. You may remove it for waist-level activities, such as when you eat, get dressed, or bathe.


  • Do not lift, pull, or push with your affected shoulder: You may also need to limit your shoulder movement, especially outward rotation. Do not use your arm to push yourself up in bed or from a chair.
  • Limit physical activities that put stress on your shoulder: Do not play sports that put great stress on your shoulder until your healthcare provider or orthopedic surgeon tells you it is okay. Examples of these sports are football, basketball, gymnastics, hockey, or rock climbing.
  • Avoid shoulder movement that causes pain: This includes actions that make your shoulder joint pop or snap. A sudden increase in activity or jerky, forceful movements could injure your shoulder.
  • Ask when you can bathe: Do not let your affected shoulder get wet unless your healthcare provider says it is okay.

Physical therapy:

A physical therapist will teach you exercises to help improve movement and strength, and to decrease pain. Physical therapy may not be started right away if other procedures were done, such as a rotator cuff (muscle) repair. Follow exercise instructions from your physical therapist, healthcare provider, or orthopedic surgeon.

Contact your healthcare provider or orthopedic surgeon if:

  • You have a fever.
  • You have chills, a cough, or feel weak and achy.
  • You have pain and swelling in your shoulder even after you take your pain medicine.
  • Your skin is itchy, swollen, or has a rash.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • You have chest pain or shortness of breath.
  • You fell and injured your shoulder.
  • Blood soaks through your bandage.
  • Any part of your arm is numb, tingly, cool to the touch, blue, or pale.
  • Your incisions wounds are swollen, red, or have pus coming from them.
  • Your stitches come apart.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.