5 Tips for a Successful Recovery from Shoulder Surgery
You’ve been dealing with your shoulder pain for a long time, modifying or avoiding activities that cause flare-ups. But the end is in sight: You’re scheduled to have shoulder surgery soon.
While the impending surgery should give you some relief from your pain and increase your ability to do the things you love to do each day, recovery from shoulder surgery isn’t a walk in the park.
Preparing ahead of time for your recovery is key to a successful, speedy recovery so you can enjoy your new shoulder. Here are 5 tips for a healthy recovery from shoulder surgery:
You may think you can do it all on your own. After all, it’s just your shoulder, right? How much help can you really need?
As it turns out, quite a bit.
Depending on your type of shoulder surgery and your pain levels, you may still be taking pain medications after you go home from the hospital. These medications can make you drowsy and even could put you at risk of falls.
Having someone with you to help you do simple things like use the restroom and get food gives you the opportunity to rest and recover without the risk of re-injuring your shoulder. While you may think there’s a lot you can do without the use of your shoulder, the reality is you’ll need to spend quite a bit of time getting used to even the smallest things without your other arm.
Prepare Your Home
You’ll be surprised at the number of daily tasks that will become exponentially more difficult following your shoulder surgery.
To help you perform some of these tasks on your own, consider picking up some of these items to have ready for you at home:
- Shower chair: Your shoulder will throw you off-balance, which can be incredibly dangerous in a slippery shower. Having a shower chair can reduce the risk of falls and be a place to rest if you get tired during those first showers after your surgery.
- Detachable shower head: You likely will be unable to get your incision site wet for several days or weeks following your surgery. A detachable shower head allows you to rinse off while directing the water where it needs to go.
- Pump soap & shampoo: Handling those heavy, slippery bottles of shampoo and body wash are tricky with one hand. Grabbing a couple of pump dispensers to attach to your current products allows you to safely and easily shower.
- Extra pillows: You may find it more comfortable to prop your arm up on a pillow, especially in the first few days after surgery. Making sure you’ve got a few extra on hand makes getting comfortable easy.
- Quick meals: Chances are you aren’t always going to feel like preparing your meals from scratch, especially in the few days after your at-home help decreases. Have some frozen or packaged foods on hand so you can easily prepare a meal, or prep ahead by making big batches of your favorite foods and freezing them for easy reheating.
- High-fiber foods: Anesthesia can cause constipation in some people, so eating some high-fiber foods as well as drinking plenty of water can help. Oatmeal, black beans, prunes, broccoli, blueberries, apples, and air-popped popcorn are great choices.
- Laxatives: While you may try to avoid the need for laxatives by eating high-fiber foods, you may not be successful. Keep a small amount of laxatives in your medicine cabinet so you don’t have to send someone out to the store if you need them.
- Pill sorter: You may have several prescriptions added to your routine after your surgery, and it can be tough keeping all those pills straight if you’re feeling groggy.
- Large waterproof bandages or trash bags & waterproof tape: Because you won’t be able to get your incision site wet for a while, you either have to resign yourself to not showering or find a way to protect your incision while you shower. Covering it with a large waterproof bandage or, alternatively, wrapping your arm in a trash bag and securing it with tape, allows you to shower without fear of getting your incision wet.
- Button- or zip-up shirts: Pulling your clothing over your head, or even just trying to maneuver your arm into a tight sleeve, can be next to impossible after surgery. To avoid this, switching out your pullover shirts for button or zip shirts can make things easier for the first few weeks.
Go to Physical Therapy
You may not think you need physical therapy, but it’s recommended to you for a very specific reason.
Your physical therapist is there to help you heal faster, avoid developing scar tissue, and avoid re-injuring your shoulder following your surgery.
Attend all physical therapy sessions, and reschedule if you’re ill or have another conflict. Fully participate in your physical therapy, and complete all at-home exercises.
You may be in pain and don’t feel like working your shoulder, but the exercises you’re given are to help you make the most out of your recovery period. If something hurts too much, let your physical therapist know and they can look at ways to modify the exercise or check to see if there’s another issue that’s causing you pain.
Wear Your Immobilizer
Yes, your shoulder immobilizer is unwieldy, annoying, and uncomfortable. But it’s also designed to hold your shoulder in a position that promotes proper healing and avoids breaking your incision or re-injuring your shoulder.
Wear your immobilizer as directed by your surgeon, even if that means sitting and watching TV with your shoulder strapped into it.
As your pain improves, your immobilizer is there to remind you not to get too ambitious with using your shoulder.
Don’t Overdo Things
As your healing process continues, you’ll likely get anxious to get back to your normal activities.
But be careful: Starting too soon and without clearance from your doctor can undo all the work that your surgery was meant to accomplish.
You may want to go outside and rake those leaves, and even think your shoulder’s up to the task, but your doctor may have other ideas.
Don’t put yourself in the situation of increased pain or even needing another surgery. If you’re feeling well enough to get back into some parts of your daily routine, discuss it with your doctor before you try anything.
Skilled Shoulder Surgery in Central Maryland
At the Centers for Orthopaedic Surgery - MMI Division, our team of skilled surgeons provide comprehensive, minimally invasive options for treating shoulder pain and injuries. Whether you want to give physical therapy a try or know you need shoulder surgery, our caring team will design an individualized treatment plan for you. Schedule your appointment today!