Shoulder Post Surgical Recovery

HOW MUCH PAIN WILL I HAVE?

Following surgery most patients will experience a variable amount of shoulder pain. This is dependent on what type of surgery you have had and how your body reacts to surgery. Your doctor will give you a prescription for pain medication following surgery to control your shoulder pain. You may also apply intermittent ice packs to the shoulder to relieve pain. This is most helpful in the first 72 hours. Never apply ice directly over the skin. Wrap it in a towel or cloth. You may apply ice for 15-20 minutes per hour. A cryotherapy unit and cuff may be recommended by your surgeon.

HOW MUCH SWELLING AND BRUISING WILL THERE BE?

Following shoulder arthroscopy there will be a significant amount of swelling in the shoulder. This is mostly due to the arthroscopy fluid which is used to expand the joint. It is not uncommon for the swelling and bruising to travel down the arm, into the forearm and hand and also into the chest and thorax. To help with the swelling you should perform simple hand, wrist, and elbow exercises several times a day. If you feel you are having an extraordinary amount of swelling or bruising following surgery, please contact your doctor.

HOW MANY INCISIONS WILL I HAVE?

Shoulder arthroscopy is performed through small puncture (lcm) incisions through the skin. Depending on what procedure you have performed you may have anywhere from 2-10 small incisions. Most patients have 3-6 small puncture incisions.

WHEN CAN I TAKE A BATH OR SHOWER

Generally, you should not take a bath (i.e. soak the wound) until the wound is completely healed which may take up to three weeks. However, you may shower or sponge bath 24 hours after surgery. You may take your arm out of the sling when taking a shower and support the arm and its weight using the opposite arm. For the first five days the wound must be kept dry using a garbage bag or taping saran wrap over the shoulder. After five days you can shower by gently and briefly letting the water run over the shoulder. Do not scrub the area. Only allow water over the wounds if the wounds are dry. After taking a shower pat the wounds dry with a clean towel. It is important to keep the axilla (i.e. armpit) of the operated shoulder clean and dry. To clean the axilla, don’t try to lift the arm away from the body suing the muscles of the shoulder. Instead it is easier to lean towards the operated side and let the arm gently dangle away from the body supporting the arm. You can then wash and dry the axilla.

HOW OFTEN DO I NEED TO WEAR THE SLING

This depends on what type of surgery you have had. In general, if you have had a repair (e.g. rotator cuff repair, labral repair, instability repair) then the sling is worn for 3-6 weeks. During that time you should wear your sling 100% of the time, including sleeping unless you are doing your exercises or taking a shower. If you have had only a decompression type procedure (e.g. subacromial decompression, acromioplasty, distal clavicle excision) or a procedure to gain motion (e.g. capsular release for frozen shoulder) then your sling is for comfort only. You may take your sling off as soon as possible and begin moving your shoulder. If you are having trouble wearing your sling please contact your doctor.

CAN I USE MY ARM TO EAT OR WRITE?

You can gently use your operated arm to eat. It is easiest to slip your arm out of the sling and use your hand to feed yourself by bending at the elbow. Keep your elbow at you side and do not reach or do anything away from your body (e.g. picking up a plate, cutting tough meat) or lift anything heavy (i.e. no more than a cup of coffee). Similarly, you can write using your operated arm by keeping the elbow at your side. If you have had a procedure on the biceps tendon, talk to your doctor.

HOW CAN I GET TO SLEEP COMFORTABLY?

Some patients have difficulty finding a comfortable position to sleep. When you sleep on your back it may help to place a small pillow behind the elbow or shoulder to help support the weight of the shoulder. If you sleep on your side (the operated side up) then it may help to place a pillow between your arms. You can also sleep in a reclining chair or propped up with a pillow in bed. When you are getting in and out of a bed or chair, DO NOT use your operated arm to push down.

WHEN SHOULD I RETURN TO WORK?

This usually depends on the type of work you do, how much pain you are in and what type of shoulder surgery you have had. In general, most patients do not work until they are seen back in the clinic about 7-10 days alter surgery. After this most patients are able to tolerate either single-handed work like answering the phone, or light deskwork duties only.

Your surgeon will provide you with specific post surgical instructions relevant to your needs to ensure a safe progression back to your regular duties.

Contact us today to talk to one of our healthcare professionals.

Shoulder Post Surgical Recovery last modified: April 7th, 2015 by Centric Health
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