Many people are anxious to have shoulder replacement because they would like to relieve their pain. Pain relief is the primary indication- or reason- to have a shoulder replacement. However, people are also hoping that shoulder replacement may allow them to return to activities that they enjoy. That leads many patients to ask me about what kinds of activities will be allowed after shoulder replacement, and when they will be able to return to sports or activities.

For my patients, I allow light to moderate activities, such as golf, swimming, bowling with a 12-pound ball, tennis, and light weight-training up to 15 pounds for the upper extremity. If you would like to throw a ball or play catch with grandchildren, I allow that within limits of comfort. That means if it is comfortable during the activity and not sore afterward, that activity is okay. For lifting, pushing and pulling around the home or on the job, I will allow up to 25 pounds intermittently at or below shoulder level.

I allow full return to work and sport by 3-4 months after surgery.

These above guidelines are general, and I may change or modify them depending on the type of replacement you have, whether your surgery is a primary (first time) or revision (re-do) surgery, whether you require bone grafting or additional procedures, and other factors. Please ask me if you have any questions about particular activities or work requirements before surgery.

And remember that not all surgeons agree. See below:

Other Surgeons’ Recommendations:

In a recent survey of shoulder and elbow surgeons, surgeons’ restrictions varied based on where they practiced (Europe v. the United States), type of shoulder replacement, and patient’s experience with the activity. In this survey of surgeons, baseball/softball and snowboarding were undecided, and martial arts, lacrosse, and team handball were not allowed. Surgeons were undecided about doubles tennis, bowling, downhill skiing, and rowing, among other activities. Numerous activities were not allowed particularly with reverse, including singles tennis, football (soccer), weightlifting, basketball, and track and field.

General Guidelines:

Table IX. 1999 American Shoulder and Elbow Society Survey – Activity after Shoulder Arthroplasty

Recommended/allowedAllowed with experienceNot recommendedNo conclusion
Cross-country skiing
Stationary skiing
Speed walking or jogging
Doubles tennis
Low-impact aerobics
Bicycling, road and stationary
Dancing: ballroom, square, and jazz
Ice skating
Downhill skiing
Rock climbing
High-impact aerobics
Horseback riding
Racquetball, squash
Skating, roller/inline
Tennis, singles
Weight training

References: Long-term activity restrictions after shoulder arthroplasty: an international survey of experienced shoulder surgeons. Reported activities after reverse shoulder arthroplasty: part II.

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