Recovery After Shoulder Replacement Surgery
Updated: Apr 25
Shoulder replacement surgery is a serious procedure that requires preparation before it and a lengthy recovery period.
Some people have the misguided idea that they will be able to get back to their usual activities soon after the surgery. However, depending on the surgery itself and its success, it takes up to six months (sometimes even longer) to fully recover and enjoy the benefits.
The first month is the most important for shoulder replacement recovery, and it's key to follow professional guidelines to avoid complications and ensure the recovery process is smooth.
Here's what you need to know about shoulder replacement recovery.
Total Shoulder Replacement Surgery
Total shoulder replacement surgery, otherwise known as arthroplasty, is done to relieve pain and other symptoms that result from damage to the shoulder joint.
The shoulder joint can get damaged by rotor cuff injuries, fractures of the upper end of the humerus, as well as osteoarthritis that damages the shoulder cartilage and hinders the free and smooth movements of the joint.
Among other causes are rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory disorders caused by an overactive immune system. These conditions damage the cartilage and even the underlying bone in the joint.
Lastly, some patients with osteonecrosis need shoulder replacement surgery too.
Osteonecrosis is a disease resulting in the death of bone cells and often leads to the collapse of the joint and bone.
Surgery and Complications
All the conditions mentioned above cause shoulder pain, stiffness, and weakness. When non-surgical treatments like medications and lifestyle changes give no results, your doctor will prescribe total shoulder replacement surgery.
During the surgery, the damaged parts (the head of the humerus bone and the socket) are removed and replaced with artificial components.
These are called a prosthesis and are available in different shapes and sizes.
While total shoulder replacement is a very successful surgery and rarely results in complications, they are possible. They include loosening and fracture of the prosthesis, infection, bleeding, shoulder instability, tearing of the rotator cuff, fractures.
Shoulder Replacement Recovery
If you don't experience any complications after your shoulder replacement surgery recovery, you will eventually be able to return to daily activities and even sports without pain and discomfort.
The post-surgery anesthesia wears off after 12-18 hours and after that, prepare for the arm to be in a sling for up to six months.
Once you return home, your shoulder replacement surgery recovery time will depend on your individual situation, progress, and whether you follow your physician's guidelines.
The First Month After Total Shoulder Replacement Surgery
Your shoulder replacement surgery recovery begins in the hospital, but you should plan for your at-home recovery in advance to have the best possible support. Otherwise, you might have shoulder pain at night, preventing you from sleeping.
Here are some shoulder replacement recovery tips before you leave to the hospital:
Place or ask a family member to place your most commonly used items within easy reach.
Select the clothes you will want to wear and that are easy to put on - no over-head tops or intricate designs - and place them near your bed.
Ask someone in your family or friend circle to help you out during the first week after surgery. You might need help preparing food, getting dressed, taking a shower, etc.
As you will not be able to drive and might be weak, have someone drive you home from the hospital and schedule a taxi.
After the Shoulder Surgery
Every patient feels differently after surgery, which depends on their general condition, how the surgery went, and other factors. But here's what you can expect.
Many people are unable to move their fingers and wrists for about 24 hours after the surgery. This is a usual symptom, and the function returns, so don't get shocked - just be prepared.
You might have inflammation and bruising on your hand and arm. This is caused by the bruising of the shoulder during the surgery and is normal.
Prepare to stay in the hospital for a couple of nights for observation and to address possible complications.
You will be able to eat regular food the next day after your surgery.
Total Shoulder Replacement Recovery
Your shoulder replacement recovery will start in the hospital when your doctors teach you some basic exercises to prevent blood clotting, speed up healing, strengthen your muscles, and minimize scar tissue forming.
You will start in the hospital and should perform those exercises at home too.
You will also probably receive pain medication, e.g., aspirin, to decrease swelling and prevent blood clots.
If your doctor determines you are ready to go home, your recovery will continue there.
Shoulder Replacement Recovery At Home
The first week and month are crucial in your recovery as you will be the most sensitive at this time. Here's what you can expect and how you can ensure speedy progress.
You will not be able to drive or perform a big part of your usual activities, so we recommend arranging help. Notice if you have shoulder pain and popping, but don’t force the muscles too much.
The first week
Your doctor will ask you to do small and simple exercises to prevent blood clots and gradually increase the range of motion and help you regain strength.
You won't be able to take baths or full showers as you should keep your surgical wound dry.
Have assistance for everyday tasks such as dressing up, cooking, etc.
Up to four weeks after surgery
While you will be able to perform your daily tasks easier and soreness will subside, you will still have a sling and shouldn't lift any heavy objects.
This is the best time to start your physical therapy and also continue your exercises.
What About Physical Therapy?
Physical therapy is one of the best ways to ensure a smooth recovery and speed up healing.
Your physician or physical therapist will teach you exercises that will help you regain strength, increase range of motion, and prevent stiffness.
Your physical therapist may also include different modalities such as manual therapy, electrical stimulation, and others.
Shoulder replacement recovery is a very important period of time after surgery that will help you heal and recover faster.
It includes being mindful and avoiding activities that may hinder the process and doing physical therapy with exercises and other modalities to ensure the best possible outcomes.
Remember to book an appointment with your physical therapist at Miracle Rehab Clinic, in order to receive the best treatment plan to your specific situation.