When to Operate
While some shoulder and elbow conditions warrant immediate operative treatment, for the vast majority of the shoulder and elbow injuries, surgery should be considered when a minimum of 3 months of non-operative treatment fails to resolve your symptoms. The major reason to consider surgical treatment for shoulder and elbow conditions is pain that compromises sleep and everyday activities such as washing, dressing, and the normal reaching and lifting required for activities of daily life. Pain that prevents more vigorous activities such as exercise and sports is also an excellent reason to consider surgical treatment.
When considering operative treatment, one should always weigh the risks and the benefits of the procedure as well as the length of recovery before full function is regained. You should count on a minimum of three months of recovery following even the simplest operative procedures on the shoulder and elbow, and major procedures such as shoulder replacement will require 9-12 months of postoperative exercises before final outcome can be assessed. You will not be disabled for 9-12 months, but you will improve function and ability to use the arm for 9-12 months following shoulder replacement.
Be sure you appreciate the time your body will require to recover from any surgical procedure, especially involving the shoulder and elbow. As with anything in life, excellent surgical outcomes are always the goal but never achieved 100% of the time. Be sure to discuss the possible complications of the procedure with your surgeon.
The better prepared and educated you are before surgery: understanding the reason you are having an operation, and the nature of the surgical procedure, the expected goal of surgery ( relief of pain!), the activity precautions following surgery, the length of recovery and, finally, possible complications of the procedure, the better you will be able to participate in your recovery and the better your outcome will be.