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Reverse shoulder replacement surgery is a relatively new technique used to treat patients who have rotator cuff tear arthropathy, a condition in which the patient sustains a tear that is not amenable to operative correction. The humerus in patients with rotator cuff tear arthropathy migrates toward the acromion and clavicle region, causing bone on bone erosion of the top of the humerus and the glenohumeral joint (the shoulder joint), which produces pain and limits motion.
The shoulder is a ball and socket joint, in which the ball rests on the humerus and the socket, or cup, is on the glenoid (the end of the scapula). With this anatomy, the primary initiator of motion is the rotator cuff. In a reverse shoulder procedure, the shoulder’s natural mechanics are reversed, as the cup is placed on the humerus and the ball on the glenoid surface. The new mechanics make it so that motion is now driven by the deltoids.
People who have reverse shoulder procedures experience far less pain than those who undergo partial shoulder replacements or do not have any surgery performed. Additionally, reverse shoulder procedures greatly improve motion.