A shoulder replacement surgery involves replacing worn-out shoulder joint parts. Your operated arm will be in a sling when you leave the hospital, so it would be helpful if there’s someone who can assist you at home for the next few weeks until you can move around better.
It’s crucial to continue your rehabilitation program at home because the better you perform your rehab exercise, the sooner you’ll get your movement and strength. Here are some aftercare tips after a shoulder replacement surgery.
Managing Stitches and Bandage
You’ll go home with stitches and bandage, tissue glue, staples, or tape strips. Generally, tape strips or glue, skin adhesive, or liquid stitches will eventually fall off on their own. If staples were used, they would be removed by your doctor after 10 to 21 days. Stitches that don’t dissolve are removed in 10 to 14 days.
You can apply this general advice if you haven’t received specific aftercare instructions:
- Change your bandage every day.
- Wash the incision area with warm water every day and pat it dry. Do not use alcohol or hydrogen peroxide because they can slow the healing process.
- If the incision rubs against your clothing or oozes fluid, cover it with a gauze bandage.
- Call your doctor immediately if your incision becomes red, swells, and drains or is painful.
- Contact and visit your doctor if you have a fever or body temperature of more than 101 °F.
Resuming Activities After Surgery
You need enough time to recover from shoulder replacement surgery. As much as possible, take enough rest or take a nap whenever you feel tired, but don’t stay in bed all day. You can work with a physiotherapist to learn the best ways to exercise to hasten recovery.
Here are the general recommendations for activities after surgery:
- Don’t take a bath or swim for the first two weeks. You can take a quick shower 24 to 48 hours post-surgery. Make sure to pat the incision dry. Don’t go into a bathtub or Jacuzzi because it will soak the wound.
- A series of exercise will help you get back the strength and range of motion of your shoulder. Your doctor will tell you how long you need to perform the exercise based on the extent of your incision and presence of other medical conditions.
- Do not lift anything using the affected arm for about six weeks.
- Place a small stack of folded towels or sheets under your upper arm so it won’t drop too far back while you’re in bed.
- Keep your arm in front or next to your body for several weeks while you’re up and during sleep.
- Your surgeon may advise you to give up some of your activities that significantly put stress on your affected shoulder (e.g., tennis and weight lifting).
- You can resume driving after six weeks or until you regain a full shoulder movement.
- Depending on the nature of your job, you may return to work in 2 to 3 weeks post-surgery. However, you need to avoid lifting and strenuous arm movements.
Watching Your Diet
You’ll probably be advised to eat a regular diet after hospitalization. You need a balanced diet to gain energy to perform exercises, move around, and achieve full recovery. Here are some tips:
- If ever you have an upset stomach, try low-fat and bland foods, such as plain rice, toast, yogurt, and broiled chicken.
- Take your vitamin and iron supplements as per doctor’s advice.
- Drink plenty of water unless advised otherwise.
- Take a fiber supplement daily to avoid problems with bowel movement, like constipation. Contact your doctor if you haven’t had a bowel movement for a couple of days so your doctor can prescribe a mild laxative.
Taking Your Home Medications
You’ll be given doctor’s prescriptions for anti-inflammatory medicine and pain medication. Only take pain medication if you’re experiencing pain. Here’s a bit of general advice about taking home medication:
- Your doctor will advise you when you can start your take-home medicines and provide the instructions.
- Take your anti-inflammatory medication as prescribed. Don’t stop taking your antibiotics just because you don’t feel pain in your shoulders anymore or you’re feeling better.
- If you have been taking blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin), aspirin, and clopidogrel (Plavix), talk to your surgeon so he can tell you when you can start taking them.
- Take note of the time that you should take your medicines, such as after meals, on an empty stomach, or at bedtime.
The most important thing you have to remember after a shoulder replacement surgery is to follow your doctor’s advice religiously. If you’re in doubt, seek explanation and ask. Don’t hesitate to call your doctor if you feel something is wrong. By strictly following the aftercare instructions, you’ll hasten your journey to full recovery.