BackgroundPhysical therapy is considered routine practice following total shoulder arthroplasty. To date, current regimens are based on clinical opinion, with evidence-based recommendations. The aim of this systematic review was to evaluate the effectiveness of total shoulder arthroplasty physical therapy programmes with a view to inform current clinical practice, as well as to develop a platform upon which future research might be conducted.MethodsAn electronic search of MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL and Cochrane Library to March 2018 was complemented by hand and citation-searching. Studies were selected in relation to pre-defined criteria. A narrative synthesis was undertaken.ResultsA total of 506 papers were identified in the electronic database search, with only one study showing moderate evidence of early physical therapy promoting a more rapid return of short-term improvement in function and pain. No studies evaluated the effectiveness of physical therapy programmes in reverse total shoulder arthroplasty procedures.DiscussionRestoring range of motion and strength following total shoulder arthroplasty is considered important for patients to obtain a good outcome post-surgery and, when applied early, may offer more rapid recovery. Given the rising incidence of total shoulder arthroplasties, especially reverse total shoulder arthroplasty, there is an urgent need for high-quality, adequately powered randomised controlled trials to determine the effectiveness of rehabilitation programmes following these surgeries.