Recovering From Shoulder Surgery: What to Expect

The shoulder is the most flexible and one of the most complex joints in your body. Your shoulder joint enables you to move your arms overhead, behind you, out the side, and around in circles. It’s an important part of your body and one that greatly affects your quality of life and activity level when it’s injured.

Because of its flexible nature, there are many opportunities for your shoulder to become overused or injured. While it depends on your injury, we at Douglas J. Abeles MD & Associates first treat most shoulder problems with nonsurgical or minimally invasive methods such as:

If these treatments fail to provide pain relief and increase mobility, surgery may be your best option. For some injuries, such as a fractured head of the humerus, surgery is the best first line of treatment because it can help prevent your injury from getting worse.

Full recovery from shoulder surgery can take several months. Here’s what you can expect after shoulder surgery:  

A sling or immobilizer

You need to keep your shoulder stable while it heals. Sudden or jarring movements can cause pain and interfere with recovery. You’ll probably leave the hospital with a sling or some support to help immobilize your shoulder.

Loose clothing

It will be challenging to use your arm after shoulder surgery, and you'll be wearing a sling. You don’t want to be wearing clothing that requires you to lift your arms to take on or off. Think about wearing shirts with snaps or zippers, and something roomy enough to fit your sling in.

Pain medications

After surgery, you may experience pain, swelling, and bruising. If the pain is too challenging to manage, our team may recommend over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Alevsidee), or prescription opioids. 

Incision care

Usually, we remove your stitches a week or two after surgery. Until then, keeping your incisions clean and dry can help prevent infection, help you heal faster, and prevent complications. 

Physical therapy

It’s important to wear a sling or immobilizer to keep your shoulder stable, but you need to move it eventually, after your shoulder heals. Start with small, simple movements and then step it up to strengthening and mobility exercises, following our medical team’s instructions. Don’t do too much too soon.

Watch for complications

Complications are rare, but if you’re worried about something, call us. Some signs that something is amiss are a high fever, numbness or tingling, or pain that doesn’t respond to medication.

Are you thinking about getting shoulder surgery? Call our office in Castro Valley, California, for a consultation.

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