Recovering from Shoulder Surgery

The First Months

Remember that it takes 3-6 months for your shoulder to heal. Fractures heal even more slowly. It may take up to a year to develop full strength and motion. You will have some pain and swelling at first. Your doctor may prescribe medication and suggest you use an ice bag. You may also continue to use your sling. Your exercise program will include more active use of your arm and shoulder. Do your exercises exactly as directed to regain maximum strength and movement.

Checking Your Progress

Your sutures or staples will be removed 10-14 days after surgery. Your surgeon may continue to check the range of motion and strength in your shoulder for the first year after surgery. Be sure to keep all your appointments and ask any questions you may have. Your doctor may also recommend that you take antibiotics before you have dental work or surgery.

Call Your Doctor If You Have

  • Increased pain
  • Drainage, redness or swelling around the incision
  • A fever over 101 degrees

Returning to Work

When you can return to work depends on your surgery and the type of work that you do. You may be able to go back to a desk job within a few weeks. Your doctor may tell you to resume some tasks gradually or to avoid other tasks until your shoulder heals. Your recovery will take longer if your work is more physical. In some cases, your doctor may advise you to change the kind of work you do to avoid overusing your shoulder.

Back in the Swing

After shoulder replacement you can look forward to less pain and stiffness. You may also have more strength and movement in your shoulder and arm and be able to return to many of the activities you enjoy-like golf, swimming, bowling, gardening or playing with your grandchildren.

If you follow your exercise program and protect your shoulder, you’ll probably be back in the swing of things within a few months. But remember that your new shoulder is not designed for heavy impact. Think of it like the tread on a tire: It will wear out faster with hard use. So, you may want to make some choices about how you use your new shoulder.