Post-operative Care – Shoulder

The following are some ways to promote healing and incorporate movement after you have had shoulder replacement surgery. Discuss these techniques with your physicians and orthopedist before attempting them. Your physical therapist may modify some of these techniques depending upon your situation (i.e., age, weight, and procedure). Only do the techniques that are recommended by your physician and/or therapist.

Once You Are At Home

It is very important that you follow your surgeon’s instructions. Any questions should always be discussed with your surgeon before your hospital discharge:

  • Do not use your surgery arm to get up out of bed or from a chair position. Use the opposite arm.
  • You may be advised not to pull anything to you, such as pulling up pants and opening doors, for six weeks after surgery.
  • Your doctor will likely give you a list of exercises to do once you’re home. Be certain to follow your doctor’s instructions, but typically you will be asked to do these four or five times a day for a month or so.
  • Be certain not to exceed the range of motion restrictions given by your physician.
  • Be careful to avoid falls.
  • You may experience less pain after surgery, which may make you believe you can do more. Be certain to follow your doctor’s instructions so that you don’t overdo it.
  • The amount of weight you can lift using your surgery arm will be limited. You doctor may recommend that you don’t lift anything heavier than a cup of coffee for the first four to six weeks.
  • Sling use will vary depending upon the situation, but your doctor may request that you wear the sling every night for at least the first month.
  • You will likely need to avoid contact sports after surgery. Your doctor will discuss these restrictions with you.
  • Remember that you will probably tire more easily than usual. You may want to plan a rest period of 30 to 60 minutes mid-morning and mid-afternoon.
  • Avoid many household chores such as, raking, sweeping, mopping, and running the vacuum cleaner using your surgery arm. Use long-handled feather dusters for dusting high and low items. Your doctor will tell you when it is okay to do these activities.
  • Constipation is a common problem for patients following surgery. This is usually due to your limited activity and any pain medications you may be taking. Discuss your diet with your doctor. It should include fresh fruits and vegetables as well as eight full glasses of liquid each day, unless your doctor tells you otherwise.
  • Your doctor will probably give you a prescription for pain pills. Please follow your doctor’s instructions concerning these medications.
  • Some swelling around the incision is normal. You will find it more comfortable to wear loose clothing to avoid pressure on the incision. Ask your doctor or other qualified health professional about appropriate wound care.
  • You may want to place a pillow behind your elbow when seated or lying down to keep the surgery area forward to help decrease pain.
  • Your doctor may recommend that you apply ice to your shoulder to help decrease pain. A two-pound bag of frozen peas or other small vegetables works surprisingly well as an ice pack.
  • American Medical Association
  • American Society for Surgery of the Hand - ASSH
  • American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons - AAOS
  • American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery
  • North American Spine Society - NASS
  • American Association of Hip & Knee Surgeons - AAHKS