You had shoulder surgery to repair the tissues inside or around your shoulder joint. The surgeon may have used a tiny camera called an arthroscope to see inside your shoulder.
You may have needed open surgery if your surgeon could not repair your shoulder with the arthroscope. If you had open surgery, you have a large cut (incision).
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.
Wear the sling or immobilizer at all times, unless your surgeon says you do not have to.
Consider making some changes around your home so it is easier for you to take care of yourself.
Your surgeon or physical therapist may teach you exercises to do at home. Keep doing the exercises for as long as you are told. This helps strengthen the muscles that support your shoulder and ensures it heals well.
You may not be able to drive for a few weeks. Your doctor or physical therapist will tell you when it is ok.
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 your pain medicine when you start having pain so pain does not get too bad.
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.
Taking ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or other anti-inflammatory medicines with your prescription pain medicine may help also. Ask your doctor about using them. Follow instructions exactly on how to take your medicines.
Place ice packs on the dressing (bandage) over your wound (incision) 4 to 6 times a day for about 20 minutes each time. Wrap the ice in a clean towel or cloth. DO NOT place it directly on the dressing. Ice helps keep swelling down.
Your sutures (stitches) will be removed about 1 week after surgery.
Keep your bandage and your wound clean and dry. Ask your doctor if it is ok to change the dressing. Keeping a gauze pad under your arm may help absorb sweat and keep your underarm skin from getting irritated or sore. DO NOT place any lotion or ointment on your incision.
Check with your doctor about when you can start taking showers if you have a sling or shoulder immobilizer. Take sponge baths until you can shower. When you do shower:
- Place a waterproof bandage or plastic wrap over the wound to keep it dry.
- When you can shower without covering the wound, do not scrub it. Gently wash your wound.
- Be careful to keep your arm by your side. To clean under this arm, lean to the side, and let it hang down away from your body. Reach under it with your other arm to clean under it. DO NOT raise it as you clean it.
- DO NOT soak the wound in a bath tub, hot tub, or swimming pool.
You will probably see the surgeon every 4 to 6 weeks if you had a complicated shoulder repair surgery.
When to Call the Doctor
Call the surgeon or nurse 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
- Swelling in your arm
- Numbness or tingling in your fingers or hand
- Your hand or fingers are darker in color or feel cool to the touch
- Redness, pain, swelling, or a yellowish discharge from any of the wounds
- Temperature higher than 101 °F (38.3°C)
Also call the doctor if your hand or fingers are darker in color or feel cool to the touch.
SLAP repair - discharge; Acromioplasty - discharge; Bankart - discharge; Shoulder repair - discharge; Shoulder arthroscopy - discharge
Throckmorton TW. Shoulder and elbow arthroplasty. In: Canale ST, Beatty JH, eds. Campbell's Operative Orthopaedics. 12th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2012:chap 12.
Review Date 11/26/2014
Updated by: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.