6 Tips for Surviving Shoulder Surgery


One can’t imagine how difficult it is to endure shoulder surgery until you experience it.  Whether you’re looking at arthroscopic surgery, replacement or a fractured shoulder, recovery can be a long road of ups and downs.  Whether you’re facing just a few weeks of therapy or three to four months of rehab, there are a few things you can do to help yourself.

1.  Choose an easy-care hairstyle. Accept the fact that it will be 2-3 months before you can style your hair with both hands. An easy-care hairstyle that you can blow with one hand is ideal during your recuperation. It’s easy to someone else to manage in the beginning and works well for you later when you’re up to doing some things yourself.

2.  Purchase clothes that are easy to change.  When you’re rehabbing a shoulder, you need clothes that can move with you. But, it’s a painful process to change clothes for therapy, doctor’s appointments, visitors, etc.  Check out the difference that Patient Scrubs® can make for you. Because the front completely detaches from the back with plastic snaps, they are a “snap” to change. Best of all, they work well for all medical treatments and don’t have to be changed for visitors or to run errands around town.

3. Ask for help….even for personal care.  In the beginning, it may be too painful to bathe yourself, wash your hair, etc. But, you’ll feel so much better when you’re clean.  Even if you’re the independent type, ask for the help you need when you need it.  Hold off on exerting your independence until your doctor or therapist tells you how much you can do and how to perform a task.

4. Think about how to perform tasks with one hand. For example, it’s easier to access items in a purse that is worn across your body with a long strap than to try to balance the purse while getting items. Larger hardback books that stay open may be easier to manage than small paperbacks.  Dental flossers are easier than dental floss.  You get the idea here. Explore ways that you can do things better with just one hand.

5. Find a comfortable sleeping position. Let’s face it….most of us don’t have an adjustable bed at home that we can arrange in multiple positions until we find just the right slope for sleeping. When you leave the hospital or rehabilitation clinic, you may be more comfortable sitting up to sleep. If you have a comfortable recliner, it could sub for a bed. Try it out, and if you’re comfortable there, set it up in a room where you can sleep. Keep pillows, ice pack and other items that you need in a handy location so you don’t have to get up and down, especially in the beginning.

6. Exercise any way that feels comfortable. A little exercise goes a long way when it comes to boosting your spirits.  Strenuous activities are out for several weeks, but try walking at a slow pace when you’re up to it.  You’ll get a bigger boost if you walk outside if the weather and terrain permits.  Ask your therapist about a stationary bike and maybe some easy exercises for your lower limbs. It’s important to keep the rest of your body in shape while you recover.

As you go through recovery, you start to appreciate the influence and help of friends who have made this path just a little easier. Take a moment and give thanks for them.  Better yet, get a copy of the book FriendFluence to share with friends.  It’s a fun read about the surprising ways that our friends make us who we are.

Healing takes time, but you’ll start seeing a difference almost every week.  This is definitely one of those times that is “no pain, no gain”.  Don’t hesitate to reach out to friends and family when you need something. While it feels like forever, there is an end. Keep your spirits up and reward yourself for each small achievement. 

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