That question is the typical response from the many patients I talk to about shoulder replacement. Most people know someone who has had a knee or a hip replacement. But now, shoulders are the third most common joint replaced.

The arm bone is connected to…

The shoulder is made up of three bones:

  1. The humerus is the arm bone and has a ball at one end, known as the humeral head.
  2. The scapula is the shoulder blade and has the socket, known as the glenoid, on one side.
  3. The clavicle is the collar bone.

The shoulder is a ball and socket joint, where the humeral head is larger than the glenoid. Imagine a golf ball sitting on a tee. Surrounding the shoulder are four muscles known as the rotator cuff. These muscles help the humeral head rotate in the glenoid, moving the arm.

As people age, joints like the shoulder can wear down or lose cartilage. This is known as arthritis and can cause stiffness and pain. Many people also develop bone spurs as the arthritis progresses.

Shoulder replacement is a surgery in which an orthopedic surgeon removes the arthritic bone and replaces it with a metal and plastic shoulder. This results in less pain and improved range of motion.

Types of replacements

There are three types of shoulder replacement.

  1. Total shoulder replacement: A metal ball replaces the humeral head and the glenoid is resurfaced with plastic. Most patients with total shoulder replacements experience less pain after surgery.
  2. Reverse shoulder replacement: A metal ball is put on the glenoid and a metal and plastic socket replaces the humeral head. A reverse shoulder replacement not only improves shoulder pain, but also helps you to move your arm over your head, even if your rotator cuff is torn.
  3. Humeral head replacement: This less common procedure replaces only the humeral head with a metal ball. This is sometimes used when the humeral head is broken in a fall or accident and cannot be repaired.

If you are a candidate for shoulder replacement, your surgeon will discuss which shoulder replacement option is best for you.

Although all surgery carries risk, shoulder replacement can provide significant pain relief and improved shoulder motion in those with painful arthritis of the shoulder.

To learn more about shoulder replacement and our Total Joint Center, visit our website.

Ana Mata-Fink, MD

Dr. Ana Mata-Fink is an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in injuries and arthritis of the shoulder and elbow. She practices with the Lifespan Orthopedics Institute and its Total Joint Center.