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April 6, 2023

8 Tips to Help with Recovery from Shoulder Surgery

Shoulder surgery can be a daunting experience and the day to day can be quite challenging post-surgery. However, in addition to following the essential instructions provided by your doctor to ensure a full and proper recovery, being ready at home can dramatically help reduce any anxiousness and make the process more comfortable.

Below are eight at-home success tips to help you to prepare and make the most out of your recovery from shoulder surgery.

1. Follow Your Doctor’s Instructions

After surgery, your doctor will provide you with detailed instructions on how to care for your shoulder. It’s essential to follow these instructions to ensure that you recover as quickly as possible. Some of the instructions may include initial physical therapy exercises, pain medication recommendations, and keeping your shoulder immobilized with a properly fitted sling. Instructions vary per procedure so be sure to diligently read through all information provided to you.

2. Consider Which Arm Your Surgery Will Be On

If surgery is taking place on your dominant arm, you’ll want to prepare by practicing daily tasks with your non-dominant arm.

As most people do not practice being ambidextrous, everyday tasks such as brushing your teeth, going to the bathroom, drinking from a cup, eating, opening doors, etc. all may be a learning curve for the first few weeks. Practicing these types of tasks prior to surgery may help ease this learning curve once surgery has taken place.

3. Prepare to Get Dressed and Do Your Hair

Throughout the first few weeks after surgery, you may not be able to:

  • lift your arm above your head
  • lift your arm out in front of you
  • lift your arm out to the side of you

To help with this, loose-fitting shirts, button-downs, and zip-ups are highly recommended for use after surgery. There are post-surgical shirts available at various online retailers if that’s an option you’d like to use as well.

It’s also recommended to practice doing your hair with one hand for those who may need to do this independently post-surgery. If you do a google search for “how to put hair in a ponytail with one hand” or something similar, you will find many tutorials to help get the hang of these tasks.

4. Build Your At-home Recovery Supply

Many patients find having little everyday items (such as those listed below) can make a big difference during shoulder surgery recovery. So you don’t have to worry about venturing out soon after surgery, it is recommended to stock up on a few weeks’ worth of food and toiletries as well.

  1. Long-handled back scrubber
  2. Detachable shower head
  3. Shower chair
  4. Frozen meals
  5. Multiple button-down shirts, front closure bras, zip-up sweaters or hoodies, oversized t-shirts, looser fitting pants
  6. Pillow wedge

5. Get Plenty of Rest and Reduce Stress

Getting plenty of rest is crucial to a successful recovery. Your body needs time to heal, and rest is the best way to facilitate that process. It’s normal to experience fatigue after surgery, so be sure you rest whenever you feel tired. Sleeping in a recliner or propping yourself up with multiple pillows can help reduce pain and inflammation.

Additionally, it’s important to reduce your stress throughout recovery. Dialing back on your daily responsibilities should be a priority. Prepare those who are typically dependent upon you so they are ready when the time comes, and you can truly optimize your recovery.

6. Focus on Nutrition and Hydration

Following a whole food nutrition plan is essential for recovery from surgery. Be sure to eat a well-balanced diet that includes:

  • plenty of fruits and vegetables
  • lean proteins
  • whole grains

This will ensure you’re receiving all the essential vitamins and minerals necessary for proper healing.

Hydration is also a very large component of ensuring a full recovery. Approximately 60% of our bodies are composed of water. Consuming enough water helps to avoid any potential complications such as infections and helps to boost the immune system that is typically weakened after surgery. The US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recommends adults consume between 92oz – 124oz of water per day. This equates to about 3-4 32oz bottles throughout the day.

7. Take It Slow and Be Patient

Recovery takes time, and you shouldn’t rush the process. Remember that taking it slow doesn’t mean you can’t do anything; it simply means for the first few weeks you’ll want to opt for light activities or adventures. With doctor guided permission, you can gradually increase the intensity of everyday activities. Remember to avoid any activities that put pressure on your shoulder, don’t lift anything heavy until your doctor gives you the go-ahead, and ask your loved ones for help when necessary.

8. Handling Setbacks

Throughout your recovery journey, you may experience setbacks. This is normal and you shouldn’t get discouraged. A few tricks that have helped many patients push through recovery are:

  1. Keeping a positive attitude and focusing on your recovery goals.
  2. Celebrate small victories, like being able to move your arm a little more each day.
  3. Remember, your body is healing, and it will take time.
  4. Embrace this period of more down time than you’re used to, and remember recovery is temporary. You’ll be back to doing the things you love to do soon.

We understand the process of recovering from shoulder surgery is not easy. It requires patience, perseverance, and following your doctor’s instructions to a T. As mentioned, it is temporary and ultimately will be the vehicle to get you back to living pain free. Prepare ahead of time, get plenty of rest, focus on your nutrition and hydration, and you’ll be back to the swing of things.

At Colorado Springs Orthopaedic Group, our teams are always here for you whenever you need us throughout your recovery journey. If you have any questions or concerns, simply send a message to your surgical team through your patient portal or give us a call at 719-632-7669. We’ll be back in contact with you as soon as possible.

Meet Our Sports Medicine Providers

Dr. John Redfern, MD Colorado Springs Orthopaedic Group

John Redfern, MD

Dr. Richard Stockelman, MD Colorado Springs Orthopaedic Group

Richard Stockelman, MD

Craig A. Yager, MD

Craig Yager, MD

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