Orthopedic Surgery, Shoulder Surgery

August 19, 2015

After Shoulder Surgery: Tips for a Comfortable and Safe Recovery


Knowing what to expect and making preparations beforehand can help your shoulder surgery recovery proceed smoothly.

After total shoulder replacement surgery, you are required to wear a sling for up to four weeks. You will likely be able to come out of the sling during physical therapy after two weeks. Most patients return to normal mobility after a month. However, many overlook the lifestyle changes they should make before entering the operation room. You need to make certain safety modifications to your home and routine to prepare for your recovery and rehabilitation.

Preparing Your Home
A few changes to your home can make a world of difference during recovery. Before your shoulder surgery date, plan and prepare your meals for the next several weeks. Store the meals in containers or sandwich bags and place them in the refrigerator or freezer for easy reheating. You may also want to stock up on easy-to-handle, ready-to-eat foods such as salad greens, bread, cereal, nuts and deli meats.

Practice bathing and brushing your teeth with your uninjured arm. An electric toothbrush may help. If your shower does not have one already, consider installing a grab bar to reduce the risk of slip-and-fall injuries. You will also want to make all commonly used items, like cups and toothpaste, easily accessible. Keep easy-to-wear clothing and accessories such as t-shirts, sweatpants and slip-on shoes at the front of your closet. Excessive reaching, bending or straining may delay your recovery.

Post-Operative Care
While your sling after your total shoulder replacement surgery does provide support, sitting and sleeping may be uncomfortable or painful. If sleeping on a bed is painful, try using a reclining sofa or chair. Rest your arm on a cushion or pillow while reading, eating or performing other seated activities.

Keep an eye on your shoulder incision throughout your recovery. If you notice swelling, draining, redness or pain, or if you develop a fever, call your doctor immediately. Some minor bleeding is normal. Otherwise, keep your wound away from dirt, debris and moisture, including baths.

Change your dressing as instructed until your stitches are removed, which usually happens one week after surgery. After removing your stitches, your doctor may permit you to rinse the wound. Do not take long showers or drench the wound in a bath. Be sure to thoroughly dry the wound after you shower.

Your doctor will provide specific shoulder surgery recovery instructions that you should follow to the letter. He may prescribe medication to prevent blood clots. He may also prescribe pain relievers and/or anti-inflammatory medicine. Use these drugs as instructed, and only when necessary.

Physical Therapy and Exercise
Physical therapy is perhaps the most crucial component of your recovery. Your doctor or therapist will provide you with routine exercises to perform. Follow these movements carefully, and do not overexert your strength. Pause if you become fatigued or sore because your muscles need ample time to recover and adapt.

After your first follow-up appointment, the doctor may modify your routine based on your progress.

You may experience stiffness, bruising and swelling of your arm and hand. These symptoms are normal and stem from the healing process in your shoulder.

Your doctor will likely instruct you to bend and straighten your elbow, gently clench and unclench your fist, and perform gentle pendulum movements regularly to facilitate blood flow and improve comfort.

Resuming Your Daily Life
At the six-week mark, your doctor will determine whether you can return to work and resume athletic activities. If your normal routine involves heavy strain or intense movement, you may need additional physical therapy sessions before your shoulder is ready.

With individualized care and adaptive medicine, the surgeons at Arkansas Surgical Hospital are committed to caring for you and your family every step of the way.

If you want more information about shoulder surgery recovery, contact Arkansas Surgical Hospital  at (877) 918-7020 to schedule an appointment with one of our renowned shoulder surgeons.

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