Total Shoulder Replacement Recovery: What to Expect

A full recovery from a total shoulder replacement surgery takes patience, time and hard work. By knowing what to expect following surgery, a successful recovery is more likely. Individuals who are experiencing pain due to degenerative arthritis or who have injured their shoulder should consider a total shoulder replacement with Board Certified Orthopaedic Surgeon Dr. Christopher O’Grady.

Total Shoulder Replacement Surgery

If shoulder replacement surgery is determined to be the best treatment option, individuals need to prepare for their recovery. Dr. O’Grady will clean out the damaged joint and fit the prosthetic pieces during the procedure; however, patients need to commit to abiding by their follow-up care instructions and physical therapy program to ensure a proper recovery.

Patients should plan ahead for their at-home recovery by:

  • placing items that they will need within easy reach;
  • setting out clothing that is easy to put on and take off (i.e., tops that zip and do not need to be pulled over the head); and
  • asking someone they trust to help them for about a week after their surgery. Patients will need help with household tasks. In addition, patients should keep in mind that they will need assistance with personal tasks (i.e., getting dressed, taking a shower, etc.).

Each patient is unique; therefore, his or her post-surgery experience is too, however, the basic timeline below provides patients with an overview of recovery following a total shoulder replacement surgery with Dr. O’Grady.

Following Surgery

What to expect directly after surgery:

  • Directly following shoulder replacement surgery, many patients are unable to move the wrist and /or fingers of the arm that was operated on. This is absolutely normal and occurs due to the anesthetic block used during surgery. The block usually wears off within 24 hours, returning function to the patient’s wrist and/or fingers.
  • Patients should expect to have bruising and inflammation in their arm, and hand. This is a natural result caused by the bruising in the shoulder.
  • The patient’s arm will be in a sling.
  • The majority of patients remain in the hospital for a night or two; however, Dr. O’Grady may perform some total shoulder replacement surgeries on an outpatient basis.
  • The day after surgery patients can begin eating solid food.
  • Following surgery, patients will need a driver as they are not permitted to drive for six weeks.

Patients who do stay in the hospital will be given exercises to perform to:

  • prevent the formation of blood clots in the veins;
  • assist in proper healing;
  • strengthen the muscles responsible for supporting the new joint; and
  • minimize scar tissue.

Patients receive pain medication, aspirin to prevent blood clots and anti-inflammatory medicine to decrease swelling. Dr. O’Grady recommends that his patients only take the pain medication when they are experiencing pain.

Dr. O’Grady will determine when the patient is ready to head home. Typically, patients who remain in the hospital can move well enough to head home within two days.

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The First Week After Total Shoulder Replacement Surgery

During the first week after surgery:

  • Patients receive small exercises to perform to keep the blood circulating. These exercises need to be performed frequently as they contribute to the patient’s ability to increase their range of motion and regain strength.
  • The surgical wound should remain dry until it is completely healed.
  • Patients will need assistance with common household tasks.

Two to Four Weeks After Surgery

Two to four weeks following surgery:

  • Dr. O’Grady removes the patient’s sutures two weeks after shoulder surgery; however, for protection and support, the patient’s arm remains in the sling.
  • Patients must avoid lifting anything that weighs more than a few pounds. Individuals with small children and/or pets will need assistance caring for them.
  • During this period, formal physical therapy begins.
  • As the patient builds strength, he or she will regain independence.

Six Weeks After Surgery

Once the patient regains full shoulder movement, he or she will probably be able to resume driving. Dr. O’Grady may also permit the patient to return to work, depending on the physical activity necessary to perform his or her job. Patients will also begin strengthening exercises at this time.

Many times, it takes from three to six months for the shoulder to heal. Regaining full strength and range of motion can take up to a year.

Three Months After Surgery

Three months after surgery the patient’s range of motion increases and pain begins to diminish. Therefore, he or she can usually return to normal daily activity and a moderate workout routine. However, contact sports still need to be avoided.

Six Months After Surgery

Once six months have passed, patients are ready to ‘graduate.’ At this point, the majority of patients are pain-free; however, some patients do experience aches related to the weather.

Individuals suffering from shoulder pain who reside in the Pensacola area should contact O’Grady Orthopaedics today. Dr. Christopher O’Grady is an Orthopaedic Surgeon who is dedicated to helping those experiencing shoulder pain. Seeking treatment is critical to ensuring the damage occurring to the shoulder is addressed. Click here to schedule an appointment at O’Grady Orthopaedics.

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