Using your shoulder after surgery

Alternate Names

Shoulder surgery - using your shoulder; Shoulder surgery - after

What to Expect at Home

You had surgery on your shoulder to repair a muscle, tendon, or cartilage tear. The surgeon may have removed damaged tissue. You will need to know how to take care of your shoulder as it heals, and how to make it stronger.

Self-care

After surgery, the arm on the side of your surgery will be in a sling or an immobilizer. Wear the device at all times, unless your doctor tells you do not have to.

If you wear a shoulder immobilizer, you can loosen it only at the wrist strap and straighten your arm at your elbow. Be careful not to move your shoulder when you do this. Do not completely take off the immobilizer unless your doctor tells you it is okay.

If you had rotator cuff surgery, or other ligament or labral surgery, you need to be careful with your shoulder. Ask your doctor what arm movements are safe to do.

Your surgeon will refer you to a physical therapist to learn exercises for your shoulder.

Consider making some changes around your home so it is easier for you to take care of yourself. Store everyday items you use in places you can reach easily. Keep things with you that you use a lot, like your phone.

When to Call the Doctor

Call your doctor or nurse if you have:

Also call the doctor if your hand or fingers are darker in color or feel cool to the touch.

References

Matsen III FA, Fehringer EV, Lippitt SB, Wirth MA, Rockwood Jr. CA. Rotator cuff. In: Rockwood CA Jr, Matsen FA III, Wirth MA, Lippitt SB, eds. The Shoulder. 4th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2009:chap 17.


Review Date: 12/20/2010
Reviewed By: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Dept of Orthopaedic Surgery. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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