4 Things To Expect When Recovering From A Shoulder Surgery

Health & Medical Blog

Is a damaged rotor cuff, torn ligament, or other shoulder issue causing you daily pain and limiting your range of motion and strength? Surgery is often the only option for serious injuries, but many people are afraid of the recovery period and avoid it for months or years. Learn the facts about recovering from this type of surgery and how to make the process as easy as possible.

Total Recovery Time

Although everyone experiences a different healing process after surgery, most patients need a full six months to return to their full range of normal activities. You'll start using the arm after about 12 weeks, but the movements will be very limited at first to avoid stressing the healing tissue. Making plans to adjust your lifestyle around your ability to only use one arm for nearly half a year can make it much less frustrating to go through daily chores after shoulder surgery. For example, you may need to have family members visit to help you clean the house or cook ahead of time and freeze meals for easier preparation during recovery.

Physical Therapy

At the beginning of your six months of recovery, you'll need six weeks of complete immobilization of the shoulder. After that point, your doctor will make a physical therapy referral and you'll start with passive motions. These treatments allow you to maintain muscle tone without doing any damage to the delicate scar tissue that is slowly healing in your shoulder. The latest recommendations state that it's best to go through six full weeks of the low-strain passive therapy before beginning any active movements around the 12 week mark.

Sleep Comfort

Since your shoulder supports weight from both your chest and neck when you're laying flat on a mattress, many patients struggle to get enough sleep to keep the healing process on track. Look for an elevated piece of furniture, like a reclining chair, a long couch with padded armrests, or even a firm triangle of foam designed for helping you read in bed. Propping yourself up keeps weight off of your shoulder, making it less painful to sleep.

Sling Use

Finally, don't forget that even dressing yourself or bathing becomes difficult when one arm is immobilized in a braced sling. Since there's no rigid cast to protect the joint from movement, the first sling itself is reinforced and tightly strapped onto your arm. Consider hiring a short-term caretaker to visit once a day for at least the first six to 12 weeks if there's no one else available to help.

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