Medically Reviewed by Lisa Valastro, DO
Shoulder pain can be debilitating and can significantly impact daily life. When conservative treatments fail to provide relief, shoulder replacement surgery may seem like a tempting solution. While shoulder replacement can be a successful procedure for some, it’s essential to weigh the risks and benefits carefully. In this blog, we explore five reasons to consider avoiding shoulder replacement surgery and alternative options that may be worth exploring.
1. Irreversible Procedure
Shoulder replacement surgery is a permanent and irreversible procedure. Once it’s done, there is no going back. If you have the surgery and later experience complications or are unhappy with the results, you won’t have the option to reverse it. This makes it crucial to thoroughly evaluate all other options and try less invasive treatments before committing to such a drastic step.
2. Long Recovery and Rehabilitation
Shoulder replacement surgery typically involves a lengthy recovery and rehabilitation process. After the surgery, you’ll need to wear a sling for several weeks and undergo physical therapy to regain strength and mobility. It can take months, if not longer, to achieve full recovery. This extended recovery period can disrupt your daily life and impact your ability to work or engage in activities you enjoy.
3. Risks and Complications
Like any surgery, shoulder replacement carries risks and potential complications. These may include infection, nerve damage, blood clots, or problems with the implant itself. Additionally, some individuals may experience persistent pain or limited mobility even after the surgery. Considering these potential complications, it’s essential to explore less invasive options first and only consider surgery when all else fails.
4. Lifestyle Limitations
Shoulder replacement surgery can come with lifestyle limitations. Activities that involve heavy lifting, strenuous overhead movements, or contact sports may be restricted permanently after the procedure. If your lifestyle or job requires these activities, a shoulder replacement might not be the best choice for you. It’s crucial to discuss your specific needs and expectations with your healthcare provider to ensure you make an informed decision.
Before opting for shoulder replacement surgery, it’s advisable to explore alternative treatments. These may include:
- Physical therapy: A customized exercise program can often improve shoulder strength and mobility.
- Medications: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or corticosteroid injections can help manage pain and inflammation, but do also come with their own drawbacks and side effects.
- Regenerative medicine: Treatments like platelet-rich plasma (PRP) or bone marrow derived stem cell therapy may promote healing, improve pain and function and allow certain patients to avoid shoulder surgery altogether.
- Lifestyle changes: Modifying your activities, ergonomic adjustments, and weight management can help alleviate shoulder pain.
Shoulder replacement surgery is a major decision that should not be taken lightly. It’s crucial to carefully consider the risks, benefits, and alternatives before proceeding with such an irreversible procedure. While shoulder replacement can provide relief for some individuals with severe shoulder problems, exploring less invasive treatments and seeking multiple expert opinions should be the first steps in your journey toward recovery. Ultimately, the decision should be based on your unique circumstances and the guidance of trusted healthcare professionals. Contact us if you are interested in options to address your shoulder pain and assess if you’re a candidate to avoid shoulder replacement surgery.