What Activities Are Allowed After Shoulder Replacement?


  • After shoulder replacement surgery, patients can engage in light to moderate activities such as golf, swimming, tennis, and lightweight training.
  • Patients can gradually return to work and sports within 3-4 months after surgery, assuming a standard recovery.
  • Restrictions on activities may vary based on the type of shoulder replacement, surgeon’s recommendations, and individual patient factors.
  • Following dedicated physical therapy and listening to your body is crucial for a successful recovery.
  • Lifestyle factors such as smoking, diet, and fitness can impact recovery, so maintaining a healthy lifestyle is important for faster healing and better outcomes.

Many people are eager to have shoulder replacement surgery to relieve their pain. Pain relief is the main reason for undergoing a shoulder replacement. However, people also hope that shoulder replacement will enable them to get back to the activities they enjoy. As a result, patients often ask about which activities will be allowed after shoulder replacement and when they can return to sports or other activities.

I recommend that my patients engage in light to moderate activities such as golf, swimming, bowling with a 12-pound ball, tennis, and lightweight training up to 15 pounds for the upper extremity. If you would like to throw a ball or play catch with your grandchildren, you can do so as long as it is comfortable during the activity and you are not sore afterward. For lifting, pushing, and pulling around the home or on the job, you can do so with weights up to 25 pounds intermittently at or below shoulder level.

Patients can typically expect to fully return to work and sports within 3-4 months after surgery, assuming a standard recovery. These guidelines are general and may be adjusted based on the type of replacement surgery, whether it’s a primary (first-time) or revision (re-do) surgery, if bone grafting or additional procedures are needed, and other factors. Feel free to ask if you have any questions about specific activities or work requirements before surgery.

It’s important to note that not all surgeons agree on these recommendations. A recent survey of shoulder and elbow surgeons found that restrictions varied based on the surgeon’s location (Europe vs. the United States), the type of shoulder replacement, and the patient’s experience with the activity. The survey found that baseball/softball and snowboarding were undecided, while martial arts, lacrosse, and team handball were generally not allowed. Surgeons were also undecided about activities such as doubles tennis, bowling, downhill skiing, and rowing. Many activities were not recommended, particularly with reverse shoulder replacements, including singles tennis, football (soccer), weightlifting, basketball, and track and field.

Additional Considerations for Shoulder Replacement Patients

It is important to have realistic expectations about the recovery process and potential limitations after shoulder replacement surgery. The rehabilitation process is gradual and requires dedication to physical therapy to ensure the best possible outcome. Your physical therapist will guide you through exercises to strengthen your shoulder and improve your range of motion.

It’s important to listen to your body and not rush back into activities too soon. Overexertion can set back your recovery and may cause complications. Keeping an open line of communication with your surgeon and physical therapist will help you understand your limits and progress safely.

Impact of Lifestyle on Recovery

Lifestyle factors such as smoking, diet, and overall fitness can significantly impact your recovery after shoulder replacement surgery. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet rich in nutrients, regular low-impact exercise, and avoiding smoking, can promote faster healing and better overall outcomes. Patients who adopt a proactive approach to their health tend to experience smoother recoveries and a higher quality of life post-surgery.

To sum up, shoulder replacement surgery can significantly reduce pain and enhance your quality of life. It’s crucial to follow your surgeon’s instructions and be patient during the recovery process. Each patient’s journey is unique, and tailoring your activities and lifestyle to support your healing will help you achieve the best possible results.

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


http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21051242 Long-term activity restrictions after shoulder arthroplasty: an international survey of experienced shoulder surgeons.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22365817 Reported activities after reverse shoulder arthroplasty: part II.

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