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Sports Medicine | May 11, 2018

If your orthopaedic surgeon has recommended surgery to repair a shoulder injury, preparing for your procedure in advance and setting up a support system can speed and aid in your recovery.

Get Ready for Shoulder Surgery

Make sure your home is set up for you to be able to easily get around. Look at the sleeping and bathroom arrangements and decide if you need to relocate to the couch for the duration or add any amenities to these rooms. Find someone to accompany you to surgery and drive you home afterwards and stay the night if possible.

TIP: Line up people to help with housework, meal preparation, and laundry. Stressing your recently operated on shoulder with basic household tasks is the most common way patients set back their recovery.

Ask your Surgeon What to Expect

Depending on the type of surgery you have, your surgeon may have specific advice for your recovery process. Major surgery means staying in the hospital at least overnight and perhaps for a few days. If you are having arthroscopic surgery which is minimally-invasive, the surgery will take a shorter amount of time than if it is a full shoulder replacement. You’ll also be allowed to return home sooner with arthroscopy, since most arthroscopic shoulder surgeries are performed in a hospital or surgery center as an outpatient procedure.

TIP: You’ll still need someone to drive you home and stay with you for a bit. Remember it’s not just inability to drive, it’s difficulty getting in and out of the car which may cause you issues. Consider sitting in the back seat so you can choose which door to exit from based on your mobility.

Immediately After Surgery

After surgery you will keep your arm in a sling for 3-6 weeks. This is to prevent accidental movement and to relieve strain of the weight of your arm pulling on the joint and tendon. Your doctor will likely provide you with a prescription for pain relief. During the first week at home, have some helpers aid you with things like getting dressed, changing your bandages, cooking, bathing, and even getting in and out of seated or lying positions.

TIP:  Once at home, apply ice packs frequently to helps reduce pain and swelling. Don’t be afraid to mix up your sleep schedule if it’s easier to sleep during the day for a while. Follow your med schedule exactly, but call the doctor if pain is too intense.

During Recovery

About 1 week after surgery you will see your physician to check your progress, and they may clear you for very light activity and schedule physical therapy. You’ll still keep your arm in a sling for 3-6 weeks. Physical therapy normally is scheduled several times a week for 8-12 weeks.

TIP: If you hear or feel a popping sound or tearing sensation in your shoulder, experience a dull ache deep in the shoulder, have pain at night that stops you from sleeping, or experience muscle weakness when lifting the arm, contact your surgeon for a follow-up.

These tips can help your recovery be as easy as possible. Shoulder surgery is not a small thing, so don’t beat yourself up if you need time to recover, and don’t push yourself too hard too soon.