When a Reverse Shoulder Arthroplasty is the Best Option

As two of your most flexible joints, your shoulders help you move through life. They help you reach, stretch, lift, hug, and much more. But the range of motion in your shoulders also puts them at greater risk for injury.

Arthritis, injury, and overuse — or a combination of all three — can create a complicated problem in an affected shoulder joint. Traditional shoulder replacement surgery — also called shoulder arthroplasty — can be an effective option to relieve pain and restore mobility in many cases. However, in cases where there is not only severe arthritis, but the rotator cuff is damaged, too, a reverse shoulder arthroplasty — or reverse shoulder replacement surgery — might be the best option.

Kristopher Downing, MD, and Daniel Brereton, DO, and our team at Upper Extremity Specialists, a member of Synergy Orthopedic Specialists Medical Group, are trained in treating even the most complex shoulder injuries. In this blog, we explain the difference between traditional shoulder replacement surgery and reverse shoulder replacement surgery.

Traditional shoulder arthroplasty vs. reverse shoulder arthroplasty

Your shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint. The humerus, or upper arm bone, has a ball on the end where it meets the scapula, or shoulder blade. The scapula cups the humerus, giving your shoulder a wide range of motion. 

The bones in your joints are cushioned by a slick substance called cartilage. Osteoarthritis develops when cartilage deteriorates from natural wear and tear as you get older. It leaves bones to rub against each other, causing inflammation and pain. 

Joint damage from arthritis or injury can make it painful or even impossible to move your joint. Joint replacement surgery removes the damaged portions of the joint and replaces them with durable, prosthetic parts. 

Traditional shoulder replacement surgery replaces the ball on the end of the humerus as well as the socket of the shoulder. However, reverse shoulder replacement reverses natural anatomy. In a reverse shoulder arthroplasty, doctors place the ball in your shoulder and place the socket at the top of your arm bone.

When to get reverse shoulder arthroplasty

Traditional shoulder arthroplasty is successful for many patients with joint deterioration, but it relies on a strong rotator cuff to effectively relieve pain and improve range of motion. The rotator cuff is a collection of muscles and tendons that hold your shoulder bones together and help you move. 

Patients with large rotator cuff tears don’t get the same results with traditional arthroplasty. Instead, reverse shoulder arthroplasty re-engineers the way your shoulder muscles work and capitalizes on the strength of other muscles if your rotator cuff is damaged.

Reverse shoulder arthroplasty could be the best option for you if you have:

You can expect your range of motion to be slightly different with a reverse shoulder arthroplasty compared to a normal shoulder joint. However, in most cases, patients see significant improvement in their movement and pain level following reverse arthroplasty.

To learn more about your treatment options for shoulder pain, book an appointment online or over the phone with Upper Extremity Specialists today.

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