You had shoulder replacement surgery to replace the bones of your shoulder joint with artificial joint parts. The parts include a stem made of metal and a metal ball that connects with a plastic liner that acts as a bearing.
Now that you're going home, be sure to follow your surgeon's instructions on how to take care of your new shoulder. Use the information below as a reminder.
When You're in the Hospital
While in the hospital, you should have received pain medicine. You also learned how to manage swelling around your new joint.
Your doctor or physical therapist may have taught you exercises to do at home.
What to Expect at Home
Your shoulder area may feel warm and tender for 2 to 4 weeks. The swelling should go down during this time. You may want to make some changes around your home so it is easier for you to take care of yourself.
Arrange for someone to help you with daily tasks such as driving, shopping, bathing, making meals, and housework for up to 6 weeks.
You will need to wear a sling for the first 6 weeks after surgery. Rest your shoulder and elbow in front of a rolled up towel or small pillow when lying down to keep your arm and hand at the same level as your body.
Keep doing the exercises you were taught for as long as you were told. This helps strengthen the muscles that support your shoulder and ensures the shoulder heals well.
Follow instructions on safe ways to move and use your shoulder.
You may not be able to drive for at least 4 to 6 weeks. Your doctor or physical therapist will tell you when it is OK.
Consider making some changes around your home so it is easier for you to take care of yourself.
Ask your doctor about which sports and other activities are OK for you after you recover.
Your doctor will give you a prescription for pain medicines. Get it filled when you go home so you have it when you need it. Take the pain medicine when you start having pain. Waiting too long to take it allows the pain to get worse than it should.
Narcotic pain medicine (codeine, hydrocodone, and oxycodone) can make you constipated. If you are taking them, drink plenty of fluids, and eat fruits and vegetables and other high-fiber foods to help keep your stools loose.
Do not drink alcohol or drive if you are taking these pain medicines. These medicines may make you too sleepy to drive safely.
Taking ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or other anti-inflammatory medicines with your prescription pain medicine may also help. Your doctor may also give you aspirin to prevent blood clots. Stop taking anti-inflammatory medicines if you take aspirin. Follow instructions exactly on how to take your medicines.
Sutures (stitches) or staples will be removed about 1 to 2 weeks after surgery.
Keep the dressing (bandage) over your wound clean and dry. Change the dressing as instructed.
- Do not shower until after your follow-up appointment with your doctor. Your doctor will tell you when you can begin taking showers. When you do, let the water run over the incision. Do not scrub.
- Do not soak your wound in the bath tub or a hot tub for at least the first 3 weeks.
When to Call the Doctor
Contact the surgeon or health care provider if you have any of the following:
- Bleeding that soaks through your dressing and does not stop when you place pressure over the area
- Pain that does not go away when you take your pain medicine
- Numbness or tingling in your fingers or hand
- Your hand or fingers are darker in color or feel cool to the touch
- Swelling in your arm
- Your new shoulder joint does not feel secure, like it is moving around, shifting or out of position
- Redness, pain, swelling, or a yellowish discharge from the wound
- Temperature higher than 101°F (38.3°C)
- Shortness of breath
Total shoulder arthroplasty - discharge; Endoprosthetic shoulder replacement - discharge; Partial shoulder replacement - discharge; Partial shoulder arthroplasty - discharge; Replacement - shoulder - discharge; Arthroplasty - shoulder - discharge
Chan WW, Namdari S, Leggin BG, et al. Surgical and postoperative management of shoulder arthritis. In: Skirven TM, Osterman AL, Fedorczyk JM, Amadio PC, Feldscher SB, Shin EK, eds. Rehabilitation of the Hand and Upper Extremity. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 89.
Edwards TB, Morris BJ. Rehabilitation after shoulder arthroplasty. In: Edwards TB, Morris BJ, eds. Shoulder Arthroplasty. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 43.
Throckmorton TW. Shoulder and elbow arthroplasty. In: Azar FM, Beaty JH, eds. Campbell's Operative Orthopaedics. 14th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 12.
Review Date 12/12/2022
Updated by: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.