Recovery Time for Shoulder Surgery


The human shoulder is one of the most unstable joints in the body, because it allows you to rotate your arm in many positions. This type of flexibility can make your shoulder vulnerable to injury, causing surgical repair and extensive healing. The time it takes to recover, however, depends on the type of damage.


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 13.7 million people in the United States sought medical care in 2003 for shoulder problems. A dislocated shoulder is the most common of these injuries, caused by extreme force that separates the top rounded portion of the upper-arm bone (humerus) away from the joint's socket (glenoid). Total recovery from a shoulder dislocation usually takes 12 to 16 weeks.


A shoulder separation occurs when ligaments holding the collarbone and shoulder blade are partially or completely torn. The injury can be as mild as a sprain with a limited amount of pain. For the most part, the injury is caused by a blow to the shoulder or by falling on an outstretched hand. Another name for this injury is an AC separation. Most shoulder separations heal within two or three months without further interference.


Tendonitis or bursitis is inflammation around a tendon. Tendons are extremely strong components of the body that connect muscle to the bone and allow free movement of the joints. Tendons are typically very flexible but can become inflamed as a result of overdoing repetitive activities such as swimming or weight lifting. In cases of mild tendonitis, recovery time can be as short as two weeks. In extreme cases where the problem is chronic or continues, full recovery can take six weeks.

Fracture and Arthritis

A fracture involves a partial or total crack through a bone. The break in a bone usually occurs because of a fall or blow to the shoulder. Recovery time depends on the person's age, health and severity of the fracture. A minor break in a child's shoulder may heal completely in a few weeks, but in an older person a serious fracture may require months to heal. Shoulder arthritis is caused by either wear and tear of the cartilage (osteoarthritis) or an inflammation (rheumatoid arthritis) of one or more joints. When shoulder arthritis is advanced and does not respond to mild exercises, attention is given to joint replacement surgery in which the joint surfaces are replaced. Rehabilitative exercises are started immediately after surgery and are continued for a year to maximize the recovery of strength, range of motion and function.

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