Recovering From Shoulder Surgery At Home

An accident resulted in a torn rotator cuff in your shoulder. The orthopedic surgeon recommended arthroscopic surgery to repair the tear. The surgery will take little time, but you'll then begin the slow process of recovering from the injury and the surgery. Here is what you can expect from the shoulder surgery and subsequent recovery at home.

Outpatient Surgery to Repair the Damage

The surgery will be done in the doctor's office or in an outpatient clinic, like Surgery Center of Kenai or a similar location. Once the surgery is over, you'll get to go home. No hospital stay is required.

The procedure is done with a local anesthetic injected in your shoulder and with you mildly sedated. The surgeon makes two small incisions over your shoulder joint. Into these incisions, tubes are inserted that contain a camera in one and surgical instruments in the other. The tubes are guided to the torn ligament and the surgeon does the repair by observing through monitors in the room or through a microscope.

After the repair is completed, the incisions are covered with small bandages. You'll go to a recovery room and rest until the anesthetic wears off. You'll then go home to begin your recovery.

The First Days Home

You'll be sent home with your arm in a special sling that keeps it tightly against your body. This puts your shoulder in an anatomically neutral position that is best for healing. You'll keep the sling on for several weeks while the tissues heal. You'll be able to take the sling off only while you bathe.

You'll rest your arm and shoulder for a few days at home then see your doctor for a follow up. If they are satisfied with the healing taking place, they will start you on a program of physical therapy. You'll visit a physical therapy clinic a few times each week and will be given exercises that you can do on your own at home between visits.

Range of Motion Exercises

The first step in your physical therapy is to regain the range of motion in your shoulder. The therapist will manually move your shoulder slowly through its normal range of motion. This stretches out the muscles to their normal lengths and gets rid of your stiff shoulder. You'll be shown how to move your shoulder with your other arm through the motions and will need to do this several times during the weeks ahead.

You'll be able to have your arm out of the sling during these exercises, but continue to wear it when not exercising. The therapist will measure the amount of range of motion you have at each session. When you have achieved nearly normal amounts of motion, your doctor will have you begin the next phase of physical therapy.

Strength Training

You'll now begin strengthening the muscles in your shoulder. You'll spend increasing amounts of time out of the sling and will be able to use your arm for light daily activities. The therapist will have you work on resistance machines in the clinic and will show you exercises that you can do at home.

You will set a pace with your therapist that you must not exceed. Ligaments take a long time to heal because they have less of a blood supply running through them as do muscles and other soft tissues. Weeks after the surgery, your rotator cuff can be damaged by pushing your shoulder beyond what it is cable of doing. Overdo it and you could re-injure your shoulder, perhaps to the point of needing additional surgery.

It will take several weeks to gain normal strength in your shoulder muscles. If you are involved in sports or other heavy physical activities, your doctor may have you continue the strength training for further protection from a shoulder injury.