Using your shoulder after replacement surgery

Alternate Names

Joint replacement surgery - using your shoulder; Shoulder replacement surgery - after

What to Expect at Home

You have had shoulder replacement surgery to replace the bones of your shoulder joint with artificial parts. The parts include a stem made of metal and a metal ball that fits on the top of the stem. A plastic piece is used as the new surface of the shoulder blade.

Now that you are home you will need to know how to protect your shoulder as it heals.


You will probably be wearing a sling for the first 6 weeks. After that, you will use the sling mostly when you go to crowded places or for support. Some patients also wear a shoulder immobilizer. This keeps your shoulder from moving.

When you are lying down, your shoulder should rest on a rolled up towel or small pillow. This helps keep the muscles and tendons around your shoulder from stretching in a way that could cause damage. You need to keep doing this for 6 to 8 weeks after your surgery, even when you are wearing a sling.

Your doctor or physical therapist may teach you pendulum exercises to do at home for 4 to 6 weeks. To do this exercise, lean over and support your weight with your good arm on a counter or table. Then hang your arm that had surgery down. Very carefully and slowly swing your loose arm around in circles.

Your doctor or physical therapist will also teach you safe ways to move your arm and shoulder.

These exercises and movements may be hard at first, but they will get easier over time. It is very important to do these as your doctor or therapist showed you. Doing these exercises will help your shoulder get better faster. They will also make it possible for you to do more activities after you recover.

Activities and movements you should try to avoid are:

Wear the sling all the time unless your doctor says you do not have to.

After 4 to 6 weeks, your doctor or physical therapist will show you other exercises to build up the strength in your shoulder and to regain range of motion (fuller movement).

Ask your doctor about what sports and other activities are okay for you after you recover. Placing too much strain on your new shoulder may decrease how long it lasts before you start having pain or other problems. Remember to always think about how to safely use your shoulder before you move or start an activity.

You will probably not be able to drive for at least 3 weeks after surgery. Your doctor or physical therapist will tell you when it is okay.

When to Call the Doctor

Call your doctor or nurse if you have:

Also call the doctor if:


Azar FM, Calandruccio JH. Arthroplasty of the shoulder and elbow. In: Canale ST, Beatty JH, eds. Campbell's Operative Orthopaedics. 11th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2007:chap 8.

Review Date: 12/20/2010
Reviewed By: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Dept of Orthopaedic Surgery. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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