Are You a Candidate for Reverse Shoulder Replacement?

Your shoulder is a complex group of joints, ligaments, muscles, and tendons that work together so you can lift, reach, carry, push, and pull. When you’ve tried nonsurgical treatments for shoulder pain without success, the idea of moving your shoulder without pain can seem out of reach.

Ongoing shoulder problems can have a significant impact on your ability to perform your regular daily activities. From reaching for a pen to write, to lifting groceries, shoulder pain and lack of mobility can limit your physical abilities.

Reverse shoulder replacement surgery is a beneficial option for people with certain kinds of shoulder disability or joint damage. If you’re dealing with chronic shoulder pain and weakness due to a rotator cuff tear and shoulder arthritis, there is hope.

Why shoulder replacement?

Shoulder replacement is a surgical procedure to replace all or part of the shoulder joint with a prosthetic version meant to feel and function like your natural shoulder. 

Your shoulder is a complex ball-and-socket joint surrounded by four tendons known as the rotator cuff. The rotator cuff plays a key role in providing stability and mobility to this joint. When any of the tendons of your rotator cuff tear, it can result in accelerated wear and tear to your shoulder joint. Over time, a type of osteoarthritis known as shoulder arthropathy can develop.

Shoulder arthropathy causes varying degrees of symptoms such as pain, weakness, and reduced shoulder mobility. If you have this problem, you may notice that you have difficulty raising your arm over your head due to pain and stiffness. 

Traditional shoulder replacement usually isn’t appropriate for treating large rotator cuff tears and shoulder arthropathy. For people in this situation, a procedure known as reverse total shoulder replacement is often a better choice. 

Reverse shoulder replacement for unique shoulder problems

During conventional shoulder replacement surgery, Dr. Matthew Pifer replaces the ball and socket of the shoulder with a metal ball and plastic socket. This effectively addresses certain joint issues but falls short of addressing torn rotator cuff-related joint instability and shoulder arthritis. 

To better stabilize the joint, Dr. Pifer performs reverse shoulder replacement, a procedure that replaces the joint but also reverses the position of the ball and socket. This arrangement gives you better use of your deltoid muscle, which typically performs well at compensating for dysfunctional rotator cuff tendons.

Considering reverse shoulder replacement

For some people with rotator cuff pain and shoulder arthropathy, treatment with medication, physical therapy, and cortisone injections can provide some relief. More often, however, those treatments may not be enough to relieve your symptoms. If traditional treatments have fallen short or relieving your pain and restoring shoulder function, you may be a candidate for a reverse total shoulder replacement.

To determine whether reverse shoulder replacement is the best choice for you, Dr. Pifer examines your shoulder, checks your range of motion, asks you about the type of pain you have, and talks with you about your medical history.

Relief from shoulder pain is within reach

During the weeks after reverse shoulder replacement, you meet with a physical therapist to do exercises that strengthen your joint and improve range of motion. After completing their rehabilitation programs, most patients experience a dramatic improvement in shoulder pain and a significant increase in range of motion.

For many people, reverse shoulder replacement is a life-changing surgery that can help restore quality of life. If you’re frustrated by shoulder pain and weakness and how it has interfered with your daily life, Dr. Pifer can help. He can answer all of your questions about shoulder replacement surgery and determine whether it can benefit you.

To find out if you’re a candidate for reverse shoulder replacement, call our office in Santa Barbara, California, for more information and to schedule an appointment.