Checklist to Prepare for Shoulder Surgery

Guest Blog by Kathi Watkins

When my husband had shoulder replacement, I searched everywhere for a checklist that I could use to help us prepare. I found a little here and a little there, but I couldn’t find a complete list of things that we could do to make it easier. There’s no reason to reinvent the wheel, so I want to share what we found helpful for his surgery. Pay it forward by taking what works for you and sharing it with others. Wishing you well in your recovery journey!


  • Patient Scrubs™ make dressing a breeze and allowed easy shoulder access for therapy treatments. They went everywhere my husband went for six weeks, and then he continued to wear them to therapy appointments.
  • T-shirts were needed in cooler weather. Cut down the side and add snaps for closure. Remove sleeve for the affected arm. They don’t ravel, so sewing isn’t required.
  • Front button shirts in a larger size are great when you’re cold. Insert your good arm, pull it around your healing arm and button in front. Zippered hoodies work well like this too.


  • Identify a driver for doctor appointments, etc.
  • No driving until you’re off pain medications
  • Some doctors allow you to drive when you’re out of a sling, but my husband’s doctor didn’t allow driving for six weeks. 


  • An aluminum cane was ideal for physical therapy home exercises
  • Over-the-door arm pulley exerciser
  • Stress ball for exercising hand

Food & Nutrition

  • Sprite or Ginger Ale to soothe upset stomach after pain medication
  • Prep food in advance if you’ll need to cook or warm meals
  • Move cooking utensils to waist level to reduce reaching and bending
  • Stock healthy food and snacks to aid in healing
  • Purchase food in containers that you can open with one hand 

Grooming &Showering

  • Replace showerhead with hand-held showerhead
  • Obtain a shower seat if you need one
  • Glad Press ‘N Seal to cover incision until it can get wet
  • Antibacterial soap
  • Electric razor is a good aid for shaving
  • Water Pik aids in flossing teeth


  • Prescription for antibiotics in advance of dental work (including cleanings) 


  • Extra pillows help position you more comfortably and aid you in rising from a bed or chair
  • A stool is helpful for getting in/out of high beds
  • Patient Scrubs™ are excellent garments for sleeping
  • Many people find a recliner to be more comfortable than a bed for sleeping. Check your recliner lever to see if it’s on the affected side because many can be switched. 

Wound Care

  • Sterile gauze and medical tape if the hospital doesn’t provide it upon discharge
  • Vitamin E cream to rub on incision area after a couple of weeks
  • Vitamin E oil removes adhesive residue from bandages
  • Ice pack (we liked the gel packs that were large enough to cover the shoulder)
  • Heating pad was used after the first month instead of ice packs
  • Scar AWAY silicone scar sheets used after the initial incision heals helps to smooth out the scar


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