4 Things To Consider After Shoulder Replacement Surgery

Written by Scott Gentle
Physiotherapist, University of Queensland
Medically reviewed by Dr Gina Arena
Research Fellow, University of Western Australia
Reviewed on July 20, 2022

Man holding his shoulder in pain post shoulder surgery

The severe affliction of the shoulder joint due to accidents or osteoarthritis can warrant a significant surgery called shoulder replacement or arthroplasty. This surgery is considered a last resort when conservative management fails to relieve pain and improve shoulder function.

Replacing a severely injured shoulder joint can offer pain relief and improve shoulder function, requiring intensive rehabilitation and recovery.

1. Pain management post shoulder replacement surgery

Major surgery like shoulder replacement will have residual pain for quite some time. However, your pain will gradually decrease as you recover. Most people only experience mild discomfort after rehabilitation from shoulder arthroplasty.

Pain medication may be given to you to help you manage the pain. However, weaning off opioid medication to avoid long-term side effects and drug dependency is vital. Physiotherapy can help you deal with the pain and accelerate your recovery.

In addition, consider weaning off pain medication months before your surgery as guided by your healthcare team. This decreases the pain you will experience after the surgery.

2. Help and Assistance

After surgery, you won’t be able to use your arm for quite some time. A physiotherapist will guide you through specific exercises that promote your shoulder healing and improve mobility.

It is essential to have a support system while you recover. Consider having someone help you with basic tasks such as preparing your meal and setting up your things for a few weeks.

It is recommended to place everything you need in an easy-to-reach level where you can access them anytime. Button-up shirts are a great option to wear while you still cannot lift your arm.

3. Sleeping strategy

Following your surgery, sleeping may be difficult. Fortunately, this can quickly be addressed with good sleeping habits, which includes:

  • Avoid drinking alcohol

  • Avoid smoking

  • Remove blue light-emitting devices in your bedroom

  • Set a routine bedtime

  • Avoid caffeine a few hours before bedtime

Talk to your physio about the best sleep position to ensure the safety of your shoulder and minimise your discomfort during bedtime.

4. Rehabilitation post shoulder replacement surgery

The success of your recovery depends on the success of your rehabilitation. Physiotherapy plays a crucial role after your shoulder arthroplasty. A physiotherapist will work closely with you on rehabilitation before and after your surgery.

During the early stage of your recovery, a physio will educate you about the movements you should avoid to prevent complications.

Through physiotherapy, you can gradually regain your function by improving the stability of your shoulder joint, increasing your muscle strength and improving your shoulder mobility. Eventually, you can return to your normal activities and even play sports.

Coordinate your rehabilitation goals with your physio to achieve maximum rehabilitation potential.

Physiotherapists are movement experts who can guide you through your recovery and improve the overall quality of your life by allowing you to do more things in life. Visit a physiotherapist today and start your road to recovery.

Written by Scott Gentle
Physiotherapist, University of Queensland
Published on July 20, 2022
Medically reviewed by Dr Gina Arena
Research Fellow, University of Western Australia
Reviewed on July 20, 2022
Medical reviewers
Last medically reviewed on July 20, 2022
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