Post op Shoulder recovery

Some practical point for recovering from shoulder surgery.

You mostly will need to use a sling. The time in the sling will depend on the injury protocol of the surgeon.

Sling: This is wearing the sling and supporting the operation site. This video will look at some tips on how to fit the sling for optimal positioning. You want to make sure the shoulder and wrist are supported by the sling, in a neutral position.

  • Always use the sling when you are walking or standing.
  • If you are sitting or lying down, you can loosen the sling, but do not remove it. This lets your elbow straighten without moving the shoulder. You can also support your arm on a pillow.
  • Remove the sling only to do prescribed exercises or to shower.

For a rotator cuff repair putting the sling on means not using the arm. This video will show you how to remove the sling if you are on your own.

If you have help a family member or friend can help you remove the sling, this is how they would help you.

Sleeping: You need to sleep with the sling on. You can either sleep on your back or side. If lying on your back you might find it more comfortable to have a 2-3 pillows to raise your upper body and prop you up into a semi reclined position. You also need to support the shoulder under the elbow. If you are on your side then you need to support your shoulder with pillows in front, and prevent the arm from dropping forward.

Dressing:  When getting dressed you will start by dressing the operated arm first. When undressing you will start by undressing the non-operated arm followed by the operated arm. You need to avoid shirts that require tucking in.


You will  find it helpful to have button up shirts after shoulder surgery, or bigger shirts than normal.

Also slip on shoes will be easier rather than trying to do up laces.

Washing: The dressings over your wounds are waterproof, so it is fine to wash with them on. Try to avoid soaking them in the bath for long periods.

Take the sling off to bath / shower. It is easier to have a shower, as getting in and out of a bath is difficult with only one arm to use.Do not lift your arm actively to wash, rather lean forward and let it hang to be able to wash under the armpit.


Use a face cloth to wipe under your arm.

You may want to use a shower stool if you feel unsteady in the shower. A plastic garden chair can also be useful.

Using a pump action soap wash can be helpful when only using one arm.

A toweling gown can be useful for getting dry post a shower.

Ice: Can help with local inflammation and pain. Can use over the shoulder for up to 20 minutes at a time. Use a thin cloth between you skin and the ice.

Exercises: You will have a series of exercises to do. You can take the sling off to do your exercises. Try keep mobile in the next few weeks. Walk if you can. But be aware that you may feel unsteady with your arm in a sling. If doing stairs, use the railing.

We also apply the principle of optimally load. This means respecting the phase of healing. Sometimes if means doing more than you would like or would normally do, but as you get better and towards the end stages of rehabilitation, it may mean doing more than you did before. Be guided by the surgeon and the therapist treating you.

Wishing you well with your recovery.

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