What is surgical realignment of the shoulder?

Your shoulders have bones in them that need to meet a certain way. Sometimes, these bones can come out of alignment. Shoulder misalignment can happen due to injuries, accidents, overuse and even poor posture. Breaks and dislocations cause pain, discomfort and difficulty moving the joint. This happens because tendons, ligaments and other tissues get damaged. They don't function how they're supposed to. Surgical realignment is the medical procedure to repair this damage. It can restore your shoulder's function and range of motion.

Most surgical realignment procedures are arthroscopic rather than open surgeries. That means the doctor makes small incisions instead of opening your shoulder. They use small cameras and tools to do surgery. Surgical realignment is a common surgery. Doctors perform more than 1.4 million in the United States each year, reports the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine.

What to expect from surgical realignment

In an arthroscopic surgery, your doctor makes small cuts in the skin around your joint. A pencil-sized light and camera travel into your joint. That way, the doctor can see a large live image on a television screen. The other openings allow access for the other tools.

Depending on the type of damage, your doctor might:

  • Repair a rotator cuff
  • Replace the shoulder
  • Reshape the head of the arm bone
  • Attach a bone graft to make up for bone loss
  • Tighten ligaments to hold the arm bone in place
  • Repair a damaged labrum and/or reattach it to the socket

Other procedures require open surgery. These use larger incisions, too. You might need to have open surgery to fix broken bones.

Recovery time for shoulder realignment surgery varies depending on the type of surgery you have. Normal activities have limitations. Your doctor will likely prescribe physical therapy shortly after the surgery. That's so your shoulder heals properly.

Common conditions requiring surgical realignment

Shoulder dislocations and fractures lead to other conditions that can misalign your shoulder. These include: 

  • Rotator cuff tears
  • Shoulder instability
  • Fractured collarbone
  • Torn or damaged labrum (tissue in your shoulder socket)

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