If you are anticipating shoulder surgery, you are likely focused on the day of your procedure. Your orthopedic surgeon will give you a list of things to do in the days leading up to surgery. It is vital that you follow these instructions carefully. In addition, the post-operative care information is just as, if not more important, for the success of your surgery.
Preparing for Surgery
Prior to the day of your surgery, it is advisable to know what to expect in the first few days after returning home. When you meet with your surgeon in the office, it is a good idea to bring a list of questions and take notes on what your recovery will look like. You will be getting a lot of information and it can be overwhelming.
Tips for optimizing your recovery period
- Wear a sling as directed by your doctor. In order to immobilize your shoulder and arm, your doctor will send you home in a sling. Depending on the type of shoulder surgery, it is very likely that you will be wearing the sling most hours of the day. Your doctor will provide you with specific guidelines for bathing, getting dressed and even extending the arm. It is vital that you follow these instructions very carefully.
- It can be difficult to get comfortable to sleep in the days following your shoulder surgery. It can be helpful to sleep in a recliner rather than a bed for some people. It might be tempting to remove the sling while you sleep but unless your surgeon advises otherwise, wearing the sling is the best way to protect your shoulder at night.
- Driving restrictions can be difficult for many patients to accept. It is advisable to wait to drive until after your post-operative visit. In addition to limited control of the vehicle, any prescription medications can make driving extremely dangerous. Your surgeon will help you determine when it is safe to drive again.
- Your orthopedic surgeon will also provide explicit directions about bathing and wound care. These directions will vary depending on whether you had an open incision or an arthroscopic approach. Be sure you ask prior to shoulder surgery how soon you can remove the dressings and when it will be okay to take a shower.
- Discuss a plan for physical therapy. Most often, physical therapy will be discussed in detail at your first post-operative visit. Attending physical therapy is essential for getting the most effective results from your surgery. The actual procedure is only the first step of a successful outcome. It is up to you as the patient to carry out your end of the process. Attending physical therapy as prescribed by your orthopedic surgeon will promote the best results.
Having realistic expectations about shoulder surgery is important for ensuring a desired outcome. The best way to manage these expectations is to discuss all aspects of surgery and recovery prior to your procedure. If you know what to expect not only about the surgery but also about the weeks and months following, you will feel more confident and prepared.