When thinking of shoulder injuries, surgery is not the first thing that comes to mind.
But while in many cases, shoulder injuries heal without surgical intervention, sometimes surgery is required for a full shoulder recovery, especially if the injury is related to the rotator cuff or the surrounding ligaments.
But what should you expect after shoulder surgery?
Well, let’s explore some shoulder surgery recovery tips to make sure that you’re prepared and know what awaits.
Tips for Recovery at Home
Many people expect a quick recovery from shoulder surgery, but the truth is, sometimes you will need to be patient and prepared to minimize the impact that the operation has on your daily life.
The shoulder surgery will have a major impact on the mobility of your arm for an extended period of time, so you need to be prepared for the fact that you may not be able to perform some of the tasks that you did with ease with a healthy shoulder.
However, if you want to ensure that your shoulder surgery recovery goes smoothly and that you get back to full strength, some compromises will be needed.
For one thing, before the surgery, you should think about how much you use the hand of the operated shoulder. If it’s your dominant hand, you will need time getting used to operating with your other hand a lot more often, so you may want to start practicing before the shoulder surgery recovery begins.
Even simple things like eating food, using the bathroom, opening doors, and washing will become more challenging, so consult with your physician on how to ensure the shoulder is safe, and also don’t be afraid to ask assistance from your family.
You will, most likely, have to stay away from some activities that you enjoy for a while, so you need to be prepared for that. The shoulder will be immobilized for at least a few weeks, and even afterward, you will have to ease into various daily activities at a slow and safe pace.
Another crucial aspect of recovering from shoulder surgery is giving yourself plenty of time to rest – sleep is a vital part of the recovery process, so you should make sure that you maintain a regular sleep cycle and give yourself as much time to recover as possible.
Many people take time off work to ensure that they are sleeping after shoulder surgery according to their doctor’s guidelines.
Next on the list of post-shoulder surgery tips is diet.
As you can imagine, having a well-balanced and healthy diet is essential for getting all of the nutrients and vitamins your body needs to repair your shoulder.
While the surgery itself is an important step, it may be even considered the easy part – it’s performed by a trained surgeon and doesn’t require a lot of conscious effort on your part.
Meanwhile, the second part of the recovery is eating healthy and helping your body repair the operated tissues, ensuring that shoulder makes a full recovery and is as strong as before your injury.
Finally, you will need to follow a rehabilitation process that will get your shoulder and arm back to full strength.
During the first weeks, your shoulder and arm will be immobilized, but as the months after the shoulder surgery go by, you will go from not moving your arm completely, to doing limited flexibility and range of motion exercises, to finally building back muscle strength and gradually closing the gap between your healthy and operated shoulders.
What to Wear
Since your movement will be quite limited during the recovery process, you will need to consider what to wear after shoulder surgery to make yourself as comfortable as possible while also keeping your shoulder secure.
As you can imagine, putting on shirts with just one arm is challenging on its own, so you will need to opt for clothes that make dressing and undressing every day as easy and painless as possible.
One thing to consider is choosing clothes that open on the front such as shirts or jackets, as that will make it much easier to put them on with just one arm. These clothes can have buttons, a zipper, or even Velcro so that you don’t have to struggle with putting them on.
Overall, you should opt for clothes that are on the loose and elastic side so that your movements aren’t restricted and you’re feeling comfortable.
If you want, you can even find special shirts to wear after shoulder surgery that are designed to be comfortable, are easy to put on, and accommodate your injured shoulder and arm.
When dressing, always focus on putting the injured arm first, and then, once it is secure, put on everything else.
How Long is the Recovery?
Shoulder surgery recovery, particularly rotator cuff repair, requires a lengthy and careful recovery process in order to ensure that you avoid re-injury and that the ligaments function properly.
For the first weeks, and even up to six weeks after your shoulder surgery, you will need to keep the shoulder immobilized and allow it to heal.
During this period, your arm will need to be placed in a sling, and you’ll have to do your best to give it as much rest as possible while avoiding any movements.
During the next phase of your recovery, which will likely last from about six weeks to about twelve weeks after the surgery, you will start performing limited movements of your arm and shoulder to begin restoring range of motion and mobility.
Even though this period will allow you to use your arm a bit more, you won’t be allowed to lift heavier objects or perform strenuous activities with your arm. However, basic daily tasks are sure to become easier at this point.
During the final recovery period that lasts from about three to about six months, you will start to strengthen the muscles in your arm and shoulder, trying to get it back to its pre-injury state and get back to full activity levels and range of motion.
Even though shoulder surgery and shoulder dislocation surgery recovery is a complicated and lengthy process, if followed strictly and under the guidance of experienced physicians, you can get your shoulder back to its pre-injury state.
ShoulderMD is a Seattle orthopedic surgeon with the experience of helping people find the best course of action for their shoulder injuries – call 206-860-5578 now or contact us and we’ll help you find the best way to move forward.