Most people during the course of their lives experience joint pain, and the shoulder is no exception. Shoulder pain may be caused by a variety of factors including arthritis, overuse or something more serious like a torn rotator cuff. If you have difficulty lifting your arm, and are experiencing severe, ongoing pain in your shoulder, it may be time to consult an orthopedic physician to discuss your treatment options.

The arm is composed to three bones (the collarbone, scapula and humerus) that rotate in a ball and socket joint. The rotator cuff is a set of muscles that keeps the arm in its socket. If it becomes damaged or torn completely, moving the arm becomes extremely difficult and painful. Read more about rotator cuff repair here.

Several causes may lead a person to consider shoulder replacement surgery including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, a severe long-term rotator cuff tear and severe fractures. The decision to have surgery should be a collaborative one between you, your family and your orthopedic surgeon.


Your doctor may recommend shoulder replacement surgery if you have:

  • Loss of motion and/or weakness in the shoulder.
  • Severe shoulder pain that interferes with everyday activities, such as reaching into a cabinet, getting dressed and bathing
  • Pain severe enough wile resting to prevent a good night’s sleep.
  • Failure to improve with other conservative treatments such as anti-inflammatories, cortisone shots or physical therapy.


A physical exam, medical history and diagnostic testing such as X-rays and MRI will help your physician prescribe a treatment plan.

Total shoulder joint replacement

This procedure involves replacement of the arthritic joint surfaces with a polished metal ball attached to a stem, and a plastic socket. Essentially, these components are like a cup and a ball in which the “ball” is placed on the humerus (upper arm) and the “cup” is placed in the scapula (shoulder blade). Common candidates for this type of surgery are patients with bone-on-bone osteoarthritis and intact rotator cuffs.

During surgery, the damaged part of the shoulder is removed and replaced with new components that will restore your range of motion.However, if torn completely, the rotator cuff muscles are no longer functional and a reverse total shoulder replacement is necessary.

Reverse Total Shoulder Replacement

This surgery uses the same components, but their positions are switched; the “ball” is attached to the scapula and the “cup” connects to the humerus. Because of this reversal, different muscles are used to move the arm, bypassing the rotator cuff.  According to the AAOS, reverse total shoulder replacement is used for patients who have:

  • Completely torn rotator cuffs with severe arm weakness
  • Severe arthritis and rotator cuff tearing (cuff tear arthropathy)
  • Had a previous shoulder replacement that failed

Conventional shoulder replacement can fail to alleviate pain in these patients and may leave them without full range of motion. Reverse total shoulder replacement is an ideal solution in these cases.

Recovery & Rehab

Following surgery, your physician will provide you with a guideline for recovery. Different pain medications are generally prescribed and physical therapy may also be necessary. But you should experience a vast improvement in your range of motion within a matter of weeks so long as you rest and rehabilitate the shoulder according to your doctor’s advice.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, our board-certified specialists are qualified to assess your shoulder issues and suggest the best corrective action. All surgeries are performed at Northeast Georgia Medical Center’s state-of-the-art North Patient Tower.

For more information or to schedule an appointment with any of our orthopedic specialists, please complete our online form or call 678-207-4100.

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