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Using your shoulder after surgery

Shoulder surgery - using your shoulder; Shoulder surgery - after

Description

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.

What to Expect at Home

You will need to wear a sling when you leave the hospital. You may also need to wear a shoulder immobilizer. This keeps your shoulder from moving. How long you need to wear the sling or immobilizer depends on the type of surgery you had.

Follow your surgeon's instructions for how to take care of your shoulder at home. Use the information below as a reminder.

Self-care

Wear the sling or immobilizer at all times, unless the surgeon says 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 take off the immobilizer all the way unless the surgeon tells you it is OK.

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

You may also be told not to use your or hand on the side that had surgery. For example, DO NOT:

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 (such as your phone).

When to Call the Doctor

Call your surgeon or nurse if you have any of the following:

Related Information

Osteoarthritis
Rotator cuff problems
Shoulder pain
Shoulder arthroscopy
Rotator cuff repair
Shoulder surgery - discharge
Rotator cuff exercises
Rotator cuff - self-care

References

Cordasco FA. Shoulder arthroscopy. In: Rockwood CA, Matsen FA, Wirth MA, Lippitt SB, Fehringer EV, Sperling JW, eds. Rockwood and Matsen's The Shoulder. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 15.

Throckmorton TW. Shoulder and elbow arthroplasty. In: Azar FM, Beaty JH, Canale ST, eds. Campbell's Operative Orthopaedics. 13th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 12.

Wilk KE, Macrina LC, Arrigo C. Shoulder rehabilitation. In: Andrews JR, Harrelson GL, Wilk KE, eds. Physical Rehabilitation of the Injured Athlete. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 12.

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Review Date: 11/5/2018  

Reviewed By: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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