I am scheduled to have a reverse shoulder joint replacement surgery on August 3. Over the years, I had several injections in the joint to relieve some of the pain but severe arthritis and deterioation of the bone leave me with on option but to replace the joint. It will be 6 weeks of keeping the shoulder immobile in a sling and then months of PT. The surgeon did say I would be able to be on a trainer soon after the surgery as long as I don’t move the shoulder. I’m probablly more motivated, than the average patient, to do the PT and recover ASAP. I am wondering if anyone else has had this replacement surgery and how recovery went. What should I expect? Thank you.
Not replacement but I’m about 2 months into rotator cuff and labrum surgery.
My practice is foot and ankle but 2 of my partners do shoulder replacement. Did them in residency, havnt done one in ages but have a good idea of how they work…
It’s not really the replacement that’s gonna slow you down, it’s the soft tissue around it that has to heal. 6 weeks or so before you’re gonna be able to flex your shoulder to get your hand to the bar. If you have access to smaller bike with shorter reach, that will help. I put my mtb on the trainer while I was healing since the reach was a bit shorter.
The trouble people get into is that you’re gonna feel pretty good in around 4-6 weeks as far as pain goes and your ability to get on the bike. The issue is you have no ability to protect yourself in a wreck or if you have to make an abrupt maneuver. Plan on 3 months on the trainer no matter how good you’re feeling.
I had 4 anchors in my shoulder 3 years ago. After the first week I was back on the trainer. 6 weeks out I was back on the bike. I hadn’t ridden in 3 years but needed to exercise so I started to ride again
A word of caution about training with one hand on the bar. My best riding buddy had rotator surgery and was back on the trainer within a few days. One hand on the bar and the other in a sling. After 6 weeks of that imbalanced body position and his shoulder was great but his back was totally messed up. He had to go straight back to the PT to fix the back and lost another 6 weeks of riding and training.
I ended up taking the should out of the sling since it was way to hot in the garage. I wrapped a dog leash around the repaired arm and wrapped the leash around my neck to support the arm. The better option would be to get a 2nd sling to support the repaired arm.
After 2 weeks I started doing full body exercises minus the repaired arm. I would do all the standard stuff but focused on making sure the core was being utilized. I was back to playing basketball in under 6 months. I even crashed 2 months out and was ok. I raced 90 post operation.
Yea I had a “sweaty sling” and a sleeping sling. It’s a must if you’re gonna keep working out.
Something to keep in mind after replacement… really go through the healing process as directed by your surgeon. Shoulder replacement is kinda the last straw for a crap joint. If you damage this, the outcomes of revisions are not the same as primary replacement. I’m not saying sit on the couch all day and quit riding, but be mindful that your arm isn’t going to act the same way in a wreck. Especially if this is your dominant arm, there’s life altering repercussions when things go wrong. That being said, I’m 2 months out and gently back on the road bike so I’m not exactly practicing what I preach to a T either. Just be aware of the risk
Hi @mcconaha1 did you ever have the surgery? And, how is it going now? I’m looking at a shoulder replacement in September. Would love any insights after 12 months or so. Thanks!
Hi jcuen. I did have a reverse replacement surgery on August 3. I will say up front, I am extremely happy with it. The pain had gotten to the point that I couldn’t sleep and riding the bike was almost miserable. I had to give up gravel and MTB rides because they were too painful.
I was in a sling for about 8 weeks. I started doing walks and backyard lunges and step-up workouts right away. I saw my PT twice a week and did the PT exercises on my own most everyday at home. I think I was on the trainer after 3 weeks. I found it pretty hard to sit and peddle sitting up or with one hand on the bars. After I was out of the sling, it was another couple of weeks before I got the ok the put pressure on the shoulder. The last week of October, my wife and I took a trip to Utah to do hiking in Zion and Bryce Canyon. No problem at all other than needing help getting the Camelback on and off.
I did my first outdoor on November 12. I was supposed to wait another week but was feeling good and just did it. I even managed to complete the Festive 500 at end of December doing all outside rides. (Lucky to get “good” December weather in Ohio🙂)
I was probably pushing more than I should have at times. My PT told me several times to rest and take it easy but I was super motivated to get back ASAP. I’m now registered and planning to do the Haute Route Dolomites at the end of August.
My suggestions would be to accept the need for the surgery. I put it off and gutted out the pain for too long.
Get a mesh sling for walks and workouts. I had a heavy padded sling I used most of the time but it got way too hot and sweaty during walks and workouts.
Attack the PT but take a rest whenever you need it.
Don’t worry about how slow you go down hill or take turns after you’re back on the road. I had been a quick descender but I was so worried about falling I was going pretty slow after surgery. I eventually got over it and don’t give a sharp turn a thought now.
I was blessed with two arthritic shoulders. Maybe too many falls during races in my younger days? I am now looking forward to having the other shoulder replaced after the Dolomites in September.
I wish you luck with your surgery. I was so happy with mine after I recovered. Please let me know if you have any questions before or after and let me know how its going after the surgery.
Just in case you might be interested in what I was doing before and after surgery, here is my Strava profile. Strava Cyclist Profile | Doug McConaha
Hey Doug, congrats on the recovery! And, thanks much for the thorough write up. This is really heartening. This will be really helpful for a handful of folks like me who will be going through the surgery.
After many years of pain in my left shoulder (old football injuries, a number of crashes and injuries), its time to get it fixed for the next 20 years or so. Can’t wait any longer!
It sounds like you did everything according to the plan. I’ve been through a different version of this with a knee replacement, but it’s great to know the shoulder can be managed.
I’m looking at a pretty similar schedule. Surgery in Sept, and recovery thru the fall (perfect riding weather in MN), with a goal of doing base training on the trainer by mid-November (#festive500). Not sure I’ll ever race MTB again (2x Leadville finisher), but hope to have more years of mid-pack, road and gravel with friends.
A suggestion for early on - if you have access to a (stationary) recumbent bike, it may be a lot more tolerable in the early phase than trying to ride one-handed on a trainer. Or you could chance it all and ride no-hands on rollers
I never thought about the recumbent idea. The worse part about riding sitting up or with one hand was not being able to stand. I would have to get off the bike every 15 or 20 minute to give myself a break. I had been doing all my indoor rides on rollers for the last 25 years. I wore out my Minoua magnetic rollers a couple of years ago and bought a set of Elite Nero Smart rollers. I always hated the mindless peddling on a trainer. After the surgery, I decided to buy my first ever smart trainer, Tacx Neo 2. I actually don’t mind the smart trainer now. I have only come off the rollers a few times over the years and only once do I remember falling all the way down to the floor. I decided better not chance a real fall off the rollers after surgery. Sadly, my days of doing stupid roller tricks are over.
Sorry for the long post but hopefully it helps someone. I decided to post an update after my second shoulder joint replacement surgery in September. When I was first looking into this surgery during summer of '21, I found very little info on how it might affect my cycling. Both surgeries were reverse replacements.
I had my left shoulder joint replaced on August 3, 2021. You can look at my post from June 11, 2022 for details on how it went. At the time of the 2021 surgery, I was also having a lot of pain in the right shoulder and was told I would probably need replacement surgery on it.
Once I recovered from the left shoulder surgery, I concentrated on getting ready for Haute Route Dolomites at the end of August. The left shoulder held up really well during training. It felt pretty much normal when riding the bike. The right shoulder was a different story. It wasn’t too painful on the bike but off the bike, constant pain. I really limited the use of the arm because of the pain. It atrophied to the point that my right jersey sleeve was loose and arm warmers would not stay up. I scheduled the replacement surgery for September 20.
I went to Haute Route and then met my wife for a week long holiday in Croatia. We returned to the US on September 14. I had successful surgery on September 20. I had a nerve block that lasted about 12 hours and stayed on top of the pain meds for a couple of days. I stopped hydrocodone three days after surgery and controlled pain with NSAIDs. PT was scheduled two weeks after surgery. I started doing short walks the day after surgery. I extended the walks after I was off the strong pain meds. I started riding the trainer eight days after surgery. I did nothing but Z1 and Z2 until I was six weeks post surgery and released from the sling. Though I am out of the sling, I am still restricted to no pressure on the shoulder. I can hold the bars but am not allowed to stand with pressure on the shoulder. I started PT sessions two weeks after surgery. I am now continuing to work with my therapist once a week and doing all the exercises everyday at home. PT is scheduled for another 6 weeks. I am about to get my 12 week check from the surgeon. I expect to be released to put pressure on the shoulder and hopefully, start riding outside.
Because I had reverse replacement, I have no rotator cuff. There are things I can no longer do. I really enjoyed throwing boomerangs before surgery. Enjoyment factor was right up there next to riding a bike. Probably not going to be able to do it now. I can no longer do a regular push up. I might be able to do push ups from the knees. We will see. No more heavy weights. I never liked lifting much anyway. I am not sure I will do mountain bikes again. Although I can fall on a road bike, it’s more likely to happen on the mtb. Especially considering my lack of mtb skills.
If anyone reads this and has any questions, please let me know. I’m happy to help anyone who would like more information.
Thanks for posting your experience with both shoulders. I’m struggling with whether to get it done now or attempt to delay it another year. There are already things I don’t or can’t do because of the pain. PT is helping keep it in check combined with daily NSAIDs. Pain isn’t to 11 but the shoulder issues definitely have messed with my sleeping, trail work, lifting, ability to ride more than an hour of mellow mtb trail or gravel. Have to take a day or two off after two days on. Seeing another surgeon in a couple weeks to see if they too recommend the total reverse : ( Painwise I feel like I could deal with it longer if I had to (a high pain threshold isn’t always a plus). But if I can regain some missing activities and ditch the pain, I’d do it sooner / now. Thanks for any insight.
Sorry to hear about your shoulder problem. I am now just over 1 year from my right shoulder replacement. I am very happy with the results. I can ride bikes with little to no pain for the first time in 5 years. I am about to click over 10k miles on the bike this year. I did sell my MTB. I decided, with my mtb skills, the risk of hitting a tree is too high . I got a new gravel bike and ride it on gravel with very little or no pain. Even did a solo 100 mile, 10000 ft evevation gain gravel ride in late summer. I am now registered to do The Rift gravel race in Iceland next July. I could not even consider these things if I had not had the surgeries.
If I were to do it again, I might not wait so long to get them done. The surgeries were worth it to get back to doing the things I really loved without the pain and discomfort.
Please let me know what you decide. I really would be interested in your experience. Please let me know if you have any questions. I will help if I can.
Hi, super helpful posts. Im 50 and scheduled for L. total shoulder. Its a gametime decision whether reverse or anatomical. Since you had a reverse (and I think I will) did you ever have any dislocation issues? Im a triathlete so the freestyle open water swim might be an issue, did you get active rotation back and “full arm use” thanks much for your input and posts,
Really happy my posts are helpful for you. When I was having my surgeries, I was not able to find any information on how it might affect my cycling. If I can help someone else, that’s great.
I have not had any dislocation issues. I have worked hard to strengthen and stabilize both shoulders. Some range of motion is limited. I can’t get my arms straight up over my head. I can throw but not very hard. I can swing my arm back and around in front in a sort of swim stroke motion but I’m not a swimmer so I don’t know if it would work. I just completed the Dialed Health Gravel Program and my shoulder strenghth and stability is better than I could have hoped for. I am limited in some of the exercises, no pullups and I only do modified pushups but really happy with the results. I really hope your surgeon can do the anatomical. I understand it can be a lot easier to get range of motion with that surgery.
Please let me know you have any question or if you think I can help in any way. I would be interested in hearing your experience with the surgery. Good luck.
After some back and forth, another MRI I am now recovering from extensive debridement and cleanup of cartridge debris and frayed tendons plus a biceps tenodesis. There’s a lot of damage in the joint but m hopeful this will provide pain relief and delay eventual replacement. Maybe if I stop landing on it as well as doing so much heavy trail work this process will last.