5 Tips for Post Shoulder Surgery Success
Getting Back to Square One
If you’re planning on having shoulder surgery like rotator cuff repair or shoulder replacement, you know that recovery won’t be easy. It’s a long process; depending on the scope of the case, the initial period of healing takes up to six weeks, with full health and mobility restored after three to six months.  The period of recovery and rehabilitation is absolutely crucial, and the last thing you want is for something to go wrong.
Everyone undergoing these procedures will get a great deal of guidance and counseling from the doctor, but it’s important to get a sense of good practices during this time. Let’s take a quick glance at five things you can do to ensure the best possible outcome.
1. Wear Your Sling or Mobilizer
It’s absolutely essential that you follow doctor’s orders and wear your sling or mobilizer as directed for up to the first eight weeks. In the aftermath of procedures like shoulder replacement or rotator cuff repair, these medical devices help keep everything in proper position and alignment. In addition, you’ll need to minimize movement and exertion of the joint; the hand, wrist, and fingers can be moved, but do your best to limit full arm movement. Don’t rush things; only take the sling or mobilizer off when given the go-ahead by the doctor.
2. Steer Clear of Certain Motions & Positions
As you go through recovery, and after you’re able to take off the sling, you’ll still need to be careful. The idea is to give the bones, ligaments, and muscles there as much time as possible to fully heal. Keep the surgeon’s instructions in mind and try to avoid the following motions or activities:
- Lifting objects
- Raising arm over head
- Applying weight to shoulder or arm
- Reaching behind the body
- Moving arm out to the side
Proper support for the shoulder is also needed overnight; it’s a good idea to sleep propped up by pillows rather than flat on your back.
3. Be Mindful of Potential Complications
It’s important to keep in solid communications with your doctor and caregivers. Part of recovery means doing your part to ensure everything is healing healthily and nothing is going wrong. What are some signs you absolutely must call the doctor?
- High fever (temperature over 101° F)
- Yellow discharge coming from incision site.
- Sudden, sharp pain that doesn’t go away with medication
- Redness around the area of incision
- Tingling and/or numbness in hand or fingers of affected side
If anything seems off or unexpected at all, don’t be afraid to contact the doctor. While complications such as nerve damage or infection are rare, there’s always some risk with these kinds of surgeries.
4. Keep Up with Physical Therapy
As your doctor will tell you, recovery from shoulder surgery often involves participating in physical therapy. With this essential work—usually over the course of regular sessions—strength and mobility are restored. Follow the physical therapist’s guidance closely; they’ll give you “homework:” exercises for you to do on your own. Starting gradually and building up, this therapy dramatically reduces recovery time, so stay on top of it!
5. Don’t Rush It
Especially for the many shoulder surgery patients who are athletes, there will come a time along the way, when you’ll want to get back to the court or playing field. Be cautious and careful; you need your doctor’s OK before starting any new exercise routines or getting back to sport. The shoulder is particularly sensitive during this time, and you run the risk of reinjury if you rush back to full activity. Doctors will only approve return to regular exercise or game play once they see that strength and mobility of the area is full restored, and you aren’t feeling any pain.
Shouldering the Burden
It’s all too easy for those recovering from shoulder surgery to forget that they’re not alone. Alongside the medical team and your physical therapist, remember there are family members and friends in your corner. It can and should be a team effort. While there’s no doubt that recovery from these kinds of treatments can be challenging, with the right help, and a careful approach, positive outcomes will come.
If you suffer from shoulder pain or require surgery, the team at Onward Orthopedics is ready to help. The experts here employ the latest in techniques and technologies to ensure positive outcomes for their patients. Alongside a dedicated team of Patient Care Managers, they’ve set a new standard for personalized and effective care. Learn more about what they do by calling (800) 577-1693 today!
- “Using Your Shoulder After Replacement Surgery: Medlineplus Medical Encyclopedia”. 2018. Medlineplus.Gov. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000176.htm.