Post Operative Tips from a Shoulder Doctor

Surgery of any kind is no easy feat, but with the proper preparations and knowledge of what to expect, you can put yourself in the best position for a successful recovery. ­Shoulder surgery can be particularly difficult because of how often you use your shoulder to perform daily tasks. Depending on the kind of surgery you have, your recovery time may vary. Arthroscopic surgery is less invasive, meaning the recovery time is shortened. It is important to talk to your orthopedic doctor about the specific type of surgery he will be performing. Knowing the recovery time can help both you and your support system be better prepared for what is to come.


Preparing for Shoulder Surgery

Knowing how to prepare is the best way to avoid stress or accidents. You want to be as relaxed as possible so your body can properly recover.

Prepare Your Shower

Investing in a detachable showerhead makes it easier for patients or their support system to shower and avoid getting their incisions wet. Follow the instructions from your doctor on showering after surgery and use a waterproof bag if necessary.

Making sure everything is in reach in your shower will also help avoid pain when bathing. If you will be showering without assistance, make sure to have everything at arm’s length so you do not have to lift your arm to grab it.

Clothing After Surgery

Getting your closet ready for surgery is just one less thing to stress about while you are recovering. Minimizing movement in the shoulder will be key after surgery. Wearing comfortable, loose-fit clothing will help avoid difficulty dressing. Loose-fit, easy-to-button shirts make it possible to get dressed without raising your arms.

You will want to think about your choice of shoes as well! Slip-on shoes like flip-flops or a flat are the best option. Avoid shoes that need to be tied to give your arm a rest.

What Does Your Support System Look Like?

After surgery, you will need someone to drive you home from the hospital. You will also need someone who can pick up any necessary prescriptions and get you into your home safely. If you do not have a direct family or friend, consider asking or hiring someone you trust to get you through the first week or so.

The more prepared and aware your support system is beforehand, the less stress both of you will have during this challenging time. Make sure they know what to expect and are fully capable of taking care of you in the best way!

Post Operative Tips for Shoulder Surgery

Now that you are all prepped for surgery recovery, what should you expect in the days that follow? The first day is always the hardest. You may be drowsy from anesthesia and medication gave during surgery, making it difficult to get around and do your basic activities. Sleeping and resting are the most important things to focus on this day.

Physical Therapy

Depending on the type of surgery, you may have your first physical therapy appointment a day or two after surgery. Your first physical therapy appointment is very important to track your progress, ensure no infections are forming, and regain your mobility back. Come prepared with any questions or concerns you may have!

Going to physical therapy is the first step but doing the at-home exercises given by your physical therapist is the next step! These exercises are what make all the difference in the recovery time of your surgery. If you want to get better as soon as possible, do all the exercises given by your physical therapist and take the medications prescribed by your doctor.


Taking the medications prescribed exactly how they are prescribed is crucial to avoid pain after surgery. You may feel fine after surgery and think you can avoid taking your medication, but the sooner you take them the better so they can start working effectively. If you have any questions or concerns about the medications your doctor prescribes, talk to them before surgery and see if there are any alternative medications you are comfortable taking.

Ice / Heat Therapy

Using the RICE (rest, ice, compress, elevate) between your physical therapy will help soothe pain and decrease inflammation. Talk to your orthopedic shoulder doctor to see which method works best for you!

Stay Positive

The road to recovery is not always a straight line. You may have a few bumps in the road along the way but remember to stay positive and patient. Stress has been shown to cause inflammation in the body, so staying positive will help your body remain calm and continue to heal properly. As always, if you have questions about your recovery talk to your orthopedic doctor or physical therapist.

Cassie Whittaker Cassie is the Communications Coordinator for Elite Sports Medicine + Orthopedics. She has been writing and reviewing medical content since 2020.

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