Tips for shoulder replacement recovery

It’s easy to understand why the surgical procedure itself is vital to successful shoulder replacement. But, along with choosing a qualified surgeon, the recovery and rehabilitation periods are as important as the procedure.
Doctor discussing options with patient for tips for shoulder replacement recovery blog


While shoulder replacement surgery isn’t an overnight fix for your symptoms, it can eventually relieve your joint pain, restore your shoulder motion, and get you back to many of the activities you once enjoyed. Choosing the right surgeon for this intricate procedure is vital, but following your rehab instructions is just as important to your successful recovery.

The orthopedic surgeons at Austin Shoulder Institute in North Austin, Texas, are well known for their experience and skill in shoulder replacement surgery. They also develop a carefully detailed rehab plan that’s personalized for their patients, and they are happy to share a few helpful tips about following your recovery plan.

What happens during shoulder replacement surgery?

Your shoulder is a ball-and-socket type of joint that, when healthy, has a greater range of motion than any other joint in your body. Our goal during replacement is to return your shoulder’s range of motion as close to normal as possible and relieve your pain.

During the procedure, we exchange the damaged joint with artificial components that include the “ball” at the end of your arm bone and the shallow socket (glenoid) in your shoulder blade that contains the ball.

Shortly after the surgery, you can expect to begin an intricate rehabilitation and recovery process that we’ve designed specifically for you. It takes several months to complete, requires your full cooperation, and is vital to a successful outcome. And we’re here to help you succeed.

Commit to following your rehabilitation plan carefully

Every instruction we give you during rehab is designed toward your full recovery, and your participation begins shortly after the surgery.

For instance, once the anesthetic block wears off and you can move your fingers and wrist again, we may ask you to make a fist several times a day. This simple movement helps restore circulation to the affected arm. While you’re in the hospital, a physical therapist will guide you through gentle range-of-motion exercises that help keep your shoulder and elbow flexible. Putting forth a good effort during all these activities helps speed your recovery.

You’ll also get instructions to perform home exercises several times a day, and we’ll let you know about restrictions regarding the weight you can lift and activities you can perform during all phases of your rehabilitation. Ignoring our directions can lengthen your recovery time and increase your postsurgical pain.

You can also expect to attend formal physical therapy sessions during your recovery. Your physical therapy exercises are designed to restore strength and range of motion to your shoulder. Skipping any of these sessions or overlooking any part of the rehab process can leave you with a stiff, unresponsive shoulder joint.

Ask for help

At Austin Shoulder Institute, we make sure our shoulder replacement candidates arrange for home caregivers/support before we even schedule the surgery.

As you heal, you will need some help around the house or with driving. The good news is that asking for help during the initial stages of your recovery often promotes faster healing and a quicker return to the independence many of us crave.

Plan accordingly

Simple acts such as gathering a wardrobe that’s easy to put on, placing fresh water and medicine within reach, and preparing nutritious meals that you can eat with one hand will make your first few days at home more comfortable.

If you’re not sure what you can do to create a user-friendly home environment throughout recovery, an occupational therapist can evaluate your home and design a plan that fits your space and lifestyle.

Keep moving

It may be three months before you’re released to return to a moderate workout routine, but daily exercise is important to your overall health. Walking to the mailbox or taking a stroll around the block may be all we recommend initially, but even this light activity can improve your mood, keep you feeling energized, and help your muscles and joints recover from surgery.


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