Doctors sometimes recommend reverse shoulder replacement surgery for patients with a rotator cuff tear that cannot be repaired, or when other types of treatments have not worked for chronic shoulder pain that isn’t associated with arthritis. During surgery, the ball-and-socket joint of the shoulder is replaced.1 However, unlike with a traditional total shoulder replacement, the positions of the ball and socket components are switched.2

Replacing parts of a joint as complex as the shoulder demands a tough recovery process. The journey may be easier when you know what to expect. 

What to Expect After Reverse Shoulder Replacement Surgery

  1. Joint immobilization: After surgery, you may be fitted with a sling designed to keep the shoulder joint stable and immobilized.3 It is a good idea to have friends and family help you with basic tasks for the first few days.
  2. Limited range of motion: For the first few weeks after surgery, you may be unable to lift your arm above your head. Plan in advance by moving essential objects in your home to lower shelves or countertops, where you can reach them. People who undergo this procedure because of degenerative conditions may never fully regain their range of motion, though they may expect it to improve as they heal after surgery.4
  3. Medication: Your doctor will likely prescribe antibiotics to prevent infection and medication to help reduce pain right after shoulder surgery.5 If you can, fill these prescriptions in advance so you don't have to worry about doing so while you recover.
  4. Rehabilitation exercises: You may generally begin limited range-of-motion exercises, such as stretching and pendulum exercises, relatively soon after surgery. Work with a physical therapist to help you determine the appropriate course of action as you recover to make sure you build strength and protect the healing tissues at the same time. Most people begin more progressive strengthening routines within 4-6 weeks after surgery.6
  5. Cold compression therapy: Some doctors recommend active cold and compression to help with the healing process. Therapeutic cold may help reduce swelling initially, and pain throughout the recovery process, while active compression helps reduce edema and removes cellular waste products from the affected shoulder joint.7
  6. Follow-up visits: You may need to return to the doctor for x-rays and exams to ensure that your recovery is progressing as expected.
  7. Recovery success: Depending on the extent of your original injury, after several months, you may have little or no pain. Many people regain their full range of motion. 

Speak with your doctor if you are interested in cold and compression therapy for your recovery. 


  1. Reverse total shoulder replacement. Johns Hopkins Medicine.
  2. Reverse total shoulder replacement. Johns Hopkins Medicine.
  3. Boudreau S, Boudreau E, Higgins LD, Wilcox RB III. Rehabilitation following reverse total shoulder arthroplasty. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2007;37(12):734-743. doi:10.2519/jospt.2007.2562.
  4. Reverse shoulder replacement. UW Medicine.
  5. Shoulder Replacement: A Guide to Recovery After Surgery. Victoria, BC: Rebalance MD; 2017.
  6. Ma C. Using your shoulder after replacement surgery. MedlinePlus. Published 2018.
  7. Healthwise Staff. Rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE). Michigan Medicine.