Full Circle Orthopedics

How to Speed Up Shoulder Surgery Recovery Time

How to Speed Up Shoulder Surgery Recovery Time

Throwing a ball, picking up children, and even waving at an acquaintance are all made possible with your shoulders. When an injury or stressful repetitive motions cause damage to your shoulder, surgery may be necessary to repair damaged tendons or a damaged shoulder joint. While highly effective for different ailments, shoulder surgery can involve long recovery times in some situations. Here is a look at a few ways you may be able to speed up shoulder recovery after surgery.

1. Make sure you have enough help at home.

One of the easiest ways to speed up shoulder recovery after surgery is to make sure you have enough support and help at home. Make arrangements before your scheduled surgery for family or friends to come and help you out for a few days if possible. The more support you have, the less likely it will be that you try to do too much on your own and delay your progress. Keep in mind, you may also be restricted from driving. Your enlisted help can be there to help you with changing clothes and grooming, preparing meals, and handling general chores so you can rest.

2. Be careful while you sleep.

Usually, patients find it most comfortable to sleep slightly upright after shoulder surgery. So arranging extra pillows in your bed or even sleeping in a recliner can be a good option. When your upper body is upright, it puts less stress on your shoulder, and it also makes it less likely you will accidentally use your shoulder in the night as you move. Wearing a sling to bed, in the beginning, is also a good idea; the sling will keep your arm in the best position and serve as a reminder to pay attention to how you move.

3. Make time to get plenty of rest.

After any type of surgery, getting ample rest is extremely important. You are healing, which depletes energy levels quickly, so that you may sleep more than usual, and that’s perfectly okay. Your body can actually heal faster when you are asleep because your immune system works harder to fight inflammation and higher levels of growth hormones help speed up cellular repair. Rest is going to help you speed up shoulder recovery and decrease healing times, so make time to make sure you get enough downtime.

4. Follow the recommended physical therapy plan.

Most forms of shoulder surgery, including arthroscopy to tend to rotator cuff damage, will require several weeks of physical therapy. For example, for rotator cuff repair, you may need physical therapy for as long as 6 to 12 weeks. Once your shoulder seems to have gotten better and you have returned to work, it can be easy to let your physical therapy commitment slip. However, you do have to keep in mind that physical therapy is only going to speed up shoulder recovery. Even if it is slightly inconvenient, it is for the overall success of your recovery.

5. Be attentive to signs of complications.

Shoulder surgery tends to have a relatively uneventful recovery for most people. Just the same, make sure you know the signs something is wrong so you can react quickly. If there is an issue and it goes unattended, it can really delay your healing process. Watch out for:

  • Discharge or new redness at the incision site
  • Tingling or numbness sensations in your hand, fingers, or forearm
  • Sudden changes in pain levels or sudden pain
  • A temperature above 100ºF, which is a common sign of infection

Usually, your doctor will get you in right away if you suspect something is wrong during recovery. Don’t delay making a call because you’re unsure about a symptom; it’s always better to be safe.

6. Make it a point to watch your movements.

Certain movements can cause so much stress on your shoulder that they may delay your healing process. Avoid things like:

  • Raising your arm fully out to the side or over your head
  • Placing any weight on your shoulder (e.g. carrying a heavy box or bag over your shoulder)
  • Reaching behind your body
  • Lifting anything heavy

At the beginning of your recovery after shoulder surgery, moving in the aforementioned ways is going to be a bit painful, so the risks of doing too much are low. However, once you start to heal, you will be able to move more freely without discomfort. While some movements are fine at this point, you still have to be careful not to move in ways that can put stress on your healing shoulder.

7. Don’t push yourself to speed up shoulder recovery.

Full recovery after some types of shoulder surgery like rotator cuff repair can take as long as four to six months in some cases. While you are going to be ready to get back to full activity and get on with your life, you do have to be patient. Trying to push yourself too hard during recovery will only inhibit the healing process. When you feel tired, rest. When your shoulder is telling you you’re doing too much, take a break. Healing can take a while, but healing the right way can mean the most successful outcome after everything is said and done.

Trust Your Doctor’s Advice to Speed Up Shoulder Surgery Recovery

Regardless of the type of shoulder surgery you’ve had, your doctor’s goal will be the same as yours: to get you back to good as quickly and safely as possible. Always rely on your orthopedic surgeon’s advice during recovery to make sure you’re giving yourself the best chance for proper healing. Reach out to us at Full Circle Orthopedics for more information about shoulder surgery.